Get Tangled Up In EL Wire with Freaklabs

freaklabsEL

[Akiba] over at Freaklabs has been working with electroluminescent (EL) wire.  An entire dance company worth! We know [Akiba] from his post tsunami radiation monitoring work with the Tokyo Hackerspace. Today he’s one of the engineers for Wrecking Crew Orchestra, the dance company that put on the viral “Tron Dance” last year. Wrecking Crew Orchestra just recently put on a new production called Cosmic Beat. Cosmic Beat takes Wrecking Crew’s performances to a whole new level by adding stage projection mapping and powerful lasers, along with Iron Man repulsor style hand mounted LEDs.

As one might expect, the EL wire costumes are controlled by a computer, which keeps all the performers lighting effects in perfect time. That’s where [Akiba] came in. The modern theater is awash in a sea of RF noise. Kilowatts of lighting are controlled by triacs which throw out tremendous amounts of noise. Strobes and camera flashes, along with an entire audience carrying cell phones and WiFi devices only add to this. RF noise or not, the show must go on, and The EL costumes and LEDs have to work. To that end, [Akiba] He also created new transmitters for the group. He also changed  the lighting booth mounted transmitter antenna from an omnidirectional whip to a directional Yagi.

The EL wire itself turned out to be a bit of a problem. The wire wasn’t quite bright enough. Doubling up on the wire would be difficult, as the dancers are already wearing 25 meters of wire in addition to the control electronics. Sometimes best engineering practices have to give way to art, so [Akiba] had to overdrive the strings. This means that wires burn out often. The dance troupe has gotten very good at changing out strands of wire during and between shows. If you want a closer look, there are plenty of pictures available on [Akiba's] flickr stream.

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Bringing the Shark to the Bee

Wireshark, a tool recognized universally as being one of the best network analyzers available, has long been used by legitimate network professionals as well as a shadier crowd (and everywhere in between). While useful for analyzing both wired and Wi-Fi traffic, monitoring 802.15.4 protocols (such as Zigbee) have not been a common use in the past. [Akiba] of FreakLabs has brought us a solution which works around the normal limitations of Wireshark’s libpcap base, which does not accept simple serial input from most homebrew setups that use FTDI or Arduinos to connect to Zigbee devices. Using named pipes and a few custom scripts, [Akiba] has been able to coax Wireshark into accepting input from one of FreakLabs Freakduino boards.

While there are certainly professional wireless analyzing tools out there that connect directly into Wireshark, we at Hackaday love showing off anyone who takes the difficult, cheap, out of the way method of doing things over the neat, expensive, commercial method any day.

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