By far the most desirable booth for the crowds at SXSW Create was the Sparkfun quadrant. We call it a quadrant because they had a huge footprint approaching 1/4 the tented area, but it was well used. They brought a number of staff down to Austin in order to give away a legit electronic badge project they call BadgerHack.
We love badge hacking. LOVE IT! But South-by isn’t purely a hardware conference so the badges aren’t made of PCBs (for shame). Add to that, free entry to Create scores you a wristband but no badge.
This is the answer to that, a badge giveaway and build-off aimed at kids but cool enough to make me feel only slightly awful for accepting one when I pretty much knew they were going to run out before the final day was done.
The USB stick PCB is, as you guessed it, an Arduino compatible loaded up with an FTDI chip and an ATmega328p which they call the BadgerStick. Accompanying this is a multiplexed 8×7 LED matrix board. Solder the three pin headers and the battery holder leads, connect to the plastic badge using the supplied double-stick tape, and you have a badge that scrolls a message in LEDs.
What an awesome giveaway. I really like it that they didn’t cut corners here. First off, the kids will value the badge much more because they had to actually assemble it rather than just being handed a finished widget. Secondly, there is the USB to serial chip and USB footprint that means they can reprogram it without any extra equipment. And an LED matrix… come on that’s just a gateway drug to learning Wiring. Bravo Sparkfun and Atmel for going this route with your marketing bucks.
The badge activity rounded out with some hardware interfacing. There’s a 3-pin socket that attendees could plug into 4 different stations around the booth. Once done they received a coupon code for Sparkfun that scrolls whenever the badge is booted up. For some at-home fun, the writeup (linked at the top) for the BadgerHack firmware is quite good. It offers advice on changing what is displayed on the badge and outlines how to build a game of Breakout with just a bit of added hardware.
With all the Flappy Bird clones floating around in the ether after the game’s unexpected success, there are some that are better than others. And by better, we mean, hacked together from misc hardware. If you’ve got an Arduino on hand, then you’re half way to making your own:
The “Minimalist” Version
[aron.bordin] created his own Flappy Bird game with a short list of parts some of us likely have lying around on our bench. An Arduino loaded with the appropriate code is wired to a 16×16 LED matrix, which apparently displays the minimal amount of visual information you’d need to play the game. The only other parts required are a single pushbutton and resistor tethered on a breadboard to control your flapping. With the wire hookup laid out by convenient diagrams and the libraries required for the code all found on the same page, this is easily something one could bang out in an afternoon. If afterwards you still find yourself with more time to kill than you can stand to play Flappy Birds, there is always the option of fashioning a humorously-sized cell phone case to squeeze it all into… which we’d like to see.
The “Fancy” Version
If you want more resolution than solid colored LEDs, or you just have a fondness for the terrifying bird abstraction the game is known for, you can switch out the 16×16 matrix for a Nokia LCD screen. [Huy’s] rendition of this build over on Hackaday.io will deliver a “more detailed” graphic for the game, and is still roughly just as easy to assemble. Similarly, an Ardunio is loaded with the smarts required to generate the game, along with a single pushbutton tacked on for control. The code and the daunting (/sarcasm) two steps needed to wire the Arduino to the screen can be found on his project’s page.
If you must kill boredom playing Flappy Bird, there is no excuse not to do so on something you made yourself.
Continue reading “Kill Time Making Flappy Bird, Not Playing It”
[Evan] wrote in to let us know about the LED matrix infinity mirror he’s been working on. [Evan] built a sizable LED matrix out of WS2812B LEDs and mounted them to a semi-reflective acrylic sheet, which makes a pretty awesome infinity mirror effect.
Instead of buying pre-wired strands of serial LEDs like we’ve seen in some other projects, [Evan] purchased individual WS2812 LEDs in bulk. Since the LEDs just had bare leads, [Evan] had to solder wires between each of his 169 LEDs (with some help from a few friends). After soldering up hundreds of wires, [Evan] drilled out holes for each LED in a piece of semi-reflective acrylic and inserted an LED into each hole.
To create the infinity mirror effect, [Evan] mounted the LED matrix behind a window. [Evan] put some one-way mirror film on the outside of the window, which works with the semi-reflective acrylic to create the infinity mirror effect. The LEDs are driven by an Arduino, which is controlled by a couple of free programs to show a live EQ of [Evan]’s music along with patterns and other effects.
We’re surprised we haven’t seen this kind of clock before, or maybe we have, but forgot about it in the dark filing cabinets of our minds. The above picture of [danjhamer’s] Matrix Clock doesn’t quite do it justice, because this is a clock that doesn’t just tick away and idly update the minutes/hours.
Instead, a familiar Matrix-esque rain animation swoops in from above, exchanging old numbers for new. For the most part, the build is what you would expect: a 16×8 LED Matrix display driven by a TLC5920 LED driver, with an Arduino that uses a DS1307 RTC (real-time clock) with a coin cell battery to keep track of time when not powered through USB. [danjhamer] has also created a 3D-printed enclosure as well as added a piezo speaker to allow the clock to chime off customizable musical alarms.
You can find schematics and other details on his Hackaday.io project page, but first, swing down below the jump to see more of the clock’s simple but awesome animations.
Continue reading “What is the Matrix…Clock?”
A word clock – a clock that tells time with words, not dials or numbers – is one of those builds that’s on every Arduino neophyte’s ‘To Build’ list. It’s a bit more complex than blinking a LED, but an easily attainable goal that’s really only listening to a real time clock and turning a few LEDs on and off in the right pattern.
One of the biggest hurdles facing anyone building a word clock is the construction of the LED matrix; each LED or word needs to be in its own light-proof box. There is another option, and it’s something we’ve never seen before: you can just buy 8×8 LED matrices, so why not make a word clock out of that? That’s what [Daniel] did, and the finished project is just crying out to be made into a word watch.
[Daniel]’s word clock only uses eight discrete components: an ATMega328p, a DS1307 real time clock, some passives, and an 8×8 LED matrix. A transparency sheet with printed letters fits over the LED matrix forming the words, and the entire device isn’t much thicker than the LED matrix itself.
All the files to replicate this build can be found on [Daniel]’s webpage, with links to the Arduino code, the EAGLE board files, and link to buy the board on OSH Park.
In a fit of awesome salvaging, [Piet] picked up a huge, 16 character, 2 line display. It’s monstrous, designed for outdoor installations; road signs, train stations, and the like. It also draws 23 Watts when nothing is being displayed, making this the perfect piece of salvaged equipment to reverse engineer.
The display was originally connected to a computer running proprietary software. The protocol between the display and computer is also proprietary, giving [Piet] the choice of either reverse engineering the protocol, or reverse engineering the hardware and building a new driver board. For anyone with a soldering iron, the second option is the simplest.
Disassembling the display, [Piet] found each character in the display was its own board with a 7×14 array of pixels, each with four LEDs. The rows and columns of each character are addressed with a shift register, and with an Arduino, [Peit] got a single character working.
The Arduino would struggle to display all the characters in the display, so a Raspi was pulled out, a driver and frame generator written, and the whole thing connected to Twitter It’s a beautifully display that draws 200 Watts when its scanning the pixels, and a wonderful reuse of disused hardware. Video below.
Continue reading “Reverse Engineering A Huge LED Display”