504 Segment Clock

FIveOfour_01_13

Trying to reinvent the clock has been done over and over again, but it’s always fun to see how over-engineered and complex these designs can get. [Bertho’s] last working clock in his house was the built-in clock on the VCR, so he decided it was finally time to build his own 504 Segment clock.

Yep, that’s right, 504 Segments! This clock uses 72 7-Segment displays to tell time. The video after the break shows the clock in action, but time is read by looking at each ring of displays: outer=seconds, middle=minutes, and inner=hour. [Bertho] could’ve just stopped there, but he decided to load the display up with sensors, so hand-waiving can change modes, and brightness can be regulated based on ambient light conditions. And since he has individual control over each segment, he has implemented some pretty cool mind-melting animations. Oh, and did we mention that the display synchronizes with an NTP server?

The display is divided into 4 quadrants, each containing 18 7-Segment displays. The control architecture is interesting because each quadrant is controlled by its own PIC microcontroller, which handles the continuous multiplexing and modulation of the 18 7-Segment displays.  A main control board contains another (more powerful) PIC to update the 4 quadrants via a serial bus. This board also handles the Ethernet connection, sensor interface, and local RTC(real time clock). This isn’t the first time we’ve seen [Bertho’s] amazing work, so make sure you check out his useless machine and executive decision maker.

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Easy Multi-Touch Table

Screen Shot 2013-12-31 at 1.53.13 PM

[2bigbros] put up an Instructable on his multi-touch table build. It’s a nice setup, using the typical frustrated total internal reflection method for touch sensing. Tinkerman’s Method was used for the screen itself, which involves rolling silicon onto vellum with a paint roller to improve the bond. [2bigbros] then built a nice aluminum and wooden frame for the whole thing. He’s light on some details, but most people with a basic understanding and Google will be able to figure it out.

This is a very accessible project for most builders. If you’re interested in getting into it, there are plenty of projects to reference. We previously covered the basics, as well as a more involved build. We’ve even seen an interactive tower defense game using multi-touch. If you decide to build one of your own, don’t forget the excellent resource at TUIO for finding frameworks and example implementations.

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Controlling High Voltage 7-Segment Displays

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The MAX7219 is one of those parts in your bin that has a “done and done” attitude. In case you’re unfamiliar, this chip can be used to control 7-Segment displays, 8×8 Matrix displays, or even a pile of random LEDs. You talk to it via a simple serial interface and it handles the tasks you don’t want to fuss with, such as multiplexing and modulation. Not all displays are alike, however, so [Raj] wrote in to show how he used the MAX7219 to control high voltage 7-segment displays.

The spec on the MAX7219 only allows an input voltage of 5V, which limits the driver output to around 4V and can cause problems when using large displays that series-connect LEDs internally. [Raj's] solution allows the MAX7219 to control displays with combined forward voltages of up to 24V, and as an added bonus, the circuit maintains compatibility with existing microcontroller libraries. We imagine this could be a nifty trick to keep on hand the next time you need to control large scoreboard displays.

The circuit works with the help of intermediate drivers to essentially level-shift the voltage to the display, which both provides the high voltage and protects the MAX7219’s inputs. One of the drawbacks of this circuit is losing the MAX7219′s constant current feature, requiring that each segment connection includes a current-limiting resistor. We appreciate this design’s attention to default states, because you wouldn’t want all of your LEDs turning ON during boot-up!

Building Mosaic LEGO Lamps

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Looking for a throw back to your childhood, or maybe you just appreciate things that light up and look amazing? Well, [Baron] has a really impressive project for you. Not only does it look stunning and incorporate all of the things we love, it’s actually a pretty novel design. These lamps are built completely out of LEGO Technic pieces, the brand of LEGO that have holes drilled through them so you can build more advanced creations.

[Baron] used these parts with the drilled holes to create a dot matrix in which he placed colored transparent LEGO dots in the holes. The method of creating patterns is very similar to the way it’s done on the “Lite-Brite”. We especially love the theme of these lamps and they would match well with your LEGO mystery box. What’s really great about this tutorial is that it lays down the foundation for LEGO-built lamps that could be more interactive, involve more control (like RGB LEDs), or even introduce some LEGO mechanics!

Reverse Engineering the Sony Ericsson Vivaz High Resolution 640 x 360 Cellphone LCD

In our opinion, reverse engineering may be one of the best ways to tease your brain. [Andy] just did that by reverse engineering the Sony Ericsson Vivaz high resolution LCD (cached copy here). In his (very) nicely written article, [Andy] explains all the steps that led him to the result shown in the picture above. He started by finding the repair manual of the Vivaz, to discover that the display could be interfaced with 8080 type parallel signals. That meant that he could use a standard microcontroller without high speed buses to interface with it, in this case the STM32F4. Next in his adventure, [Andy] ordered the appropriate connector and took a more educated guess for the onboard microcontroller. A long Google search brought up the R61523 from Renesas. So he designed his breakout board, got it produced and a few hours later a nice picture was being shown on the LCD. He even took the time to compare the original display with the clone he found on the webs, and modified his graphics library to support this display.

A Video Game with custom LCD characters

LCD

[Nakul] wanted to build a video game, and with a few projects worth of Arduino experience decided he could finally attain his goal. He used a character LCD display to make his game, and instead of a text-based adventure, he went with a graphical side scroller.

The display for this space-based side scroller isn’t a graphical display like a CRT or a graphic LCD. Instead, [Nakul] is using the ubiquitous Hitachi HD44780 character LCD display. Normally these are used to display text, but they all have the ability to display custom 5 by 8 pixel characters. The code puts these custom characters – a spaceship, missile, and barrier – into the display’s memory and uses them as the sprites for the video game.

You can grab [Nakul]‘s code over on his git or check out the action videos below.

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A very small HDMI display

replicape

With dozens of pocket-sized ARM boards with HDMI popping up, we’re surprised we haven’t seen this before. [Elias] made a custom driver board that takes an HDMI input and displays it on a very tiny, high-resolution display from a cell phone.

The display used is the same as what comes stock in the HTC desire HD. With a resolution of 800×480, it’s more than enough for a basic desktop, and while it’s not a 1080p monster from a few flagship phones, it’s more than enough for most uses.

[Elias]‘ board consists of a Himax display driver and a TI DVI receiver. Included on the board is an MSP430 microcontroller used for initializing the driver and display. This build was originally intended for the Replicape, a 3D printer driver board for the Beaglebone, but because the only connections to this board are HDMI and an SPI to the ’430, this also works with the Raspberry Pi.