Displaying text on random strings of Christmas lights

lights

With the help of a microcontroller, a few strings of GE Color Effect Christmas lights can be easily turned into a fully programmable LED strip, or if you are so inclined, a huge RGB LED display. [Hubbe] had a few strings of these Color Effect Christmas lights, but didn’t want to spend the time arranging his light strings in an array simply to get a programmable display. His solution to this problem – the Chaos Display – turns strings of Christmas lights randomly thrown on a tree into a fully programmable display capable of displaying text and images.

[Hubbe] was inspired by QC Co-Lab’s light wall powered by GE Color Effect lights. Having a huge RGB LED display is very cool, but requires building a frame for each of the Christmas light pixels. [Hubbe] had a different idea – just throw the lights on a tree and use a web cam to figure out where each Christmas light is on the display.

The actual build consists of six strings of Color Effect lights. After throwing them on the tree, [Hubbe] set his phone on a tripod to record an image for each individual light. With some computing power, he was able to create a virtual display made of tangled strings of Christmas lights.

You can see a video of [Hubbe]‘s work after the break.

[Read more...]

Hackerspace light wall plays video at 30 fps

led-light-wall

The folks at The Quad Cities Collaboration and Hackerspace (QC Co-Lab) were trying to find something to build for their first big project, and had to look no further than the wall for inspiration. The north end of their facility is home to a huge 15×17 glass block wall that happens to face a well-traveled roadway.

They decided that turning the wall into a huge LED display would be a great way to attract attention from passers-by, so they picked up some GE Color Effects lights and got down to business. Once they found out that the technical college next door was putting on an open house, the race was on to get the light display assembled as quickly as possible to maximize their exposure.

The team mounted the 255 LEDs in vacuum-formed reflective cones, which were attached to wooden frames before being installed behind the glass wall. An Arduino drives the entire display at a smooth 30 frames per second, a task they say tests the very limits of the board’s capabilities.

They finished the job in time for the open house, and as you can see in the video below, the display looks great.

Nice job QC-Co-Lab!

[Read more...]

CheerLights: Synchronizing Christmas lights around the globe

cheerlights-synchronized-christmas-lights

They say that the holidays are a time to gather with others, which usually translates into spending time with friends and family. The folks at ioBridge Labs thought that while friends and family certainly are a big part of the holidays, it would be pretty cool to gather together flocks of strangers by using the Internet to synchronize their Christmas lights.

Participation in CheerLights is pretty easy, requiring little more than an Internet connection, some GE G-35 Color Effects lights, an Arduino, and an ioBridge. While those are the recommended components, an Arduino Ethernet shield will handle networking just as well. There really are no restrictions when it comes to hardware, so if you are so inclined, it should be relatively easy to roll your own display using simple RGB LEDs and a µC of your choosing.

The colors are dictated by the group’s Twitter feed, which can be found at http://twitter.com/#!/@cheerlights. Whenever a message is sent to @cheerlights along with a color, all of the light displays listening in will change simultaneously.

We really like the idea, and think it would be pretty cool to see this sort of program rolled out on a neighborhood or street-wide level, so you could see dozens of strings changing colors all at once.

If you’re interested in checking out CheerLights’ current color, be sure to take a gander at their live stream here.

[via BuildLounge]

ColorNode: A drop-in GE Color Effects LED controller

colornode-ge-color-effects-controller

[Paul] was looking to spice up his holiday decorations this year, so he picked up some GE Color Effects lights and started hacking away.

We’ve already seen how hacker-friendly these LED bulbs are, which is why [Paul] decided to give them a try. His ultimate goal was to synchronize several sets of lights from one location, which would unfortunately require that he run wires from his control board to each of the strings.

He then decided to go a different route, and build his own control board that would work as a drop-in replacement for GE’s controller circuitry. He wanted to retain the wireless control aspect of the lights, so he picked up some RFM12B wireless modules which happen to be well-supported by the folks at JeeLabs.

He modified their JeeNode board design to fit it in the Color Effects electronics enclosure, paring it back to the minimum components necessary to control his lights.

The hardware side of the ColorNode is complete, but the software is a work in progress. [Paul] says that once he gets things wrapped up, he will make the code available on his site.

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