Built-in Coffee Table Lightbox

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[Flyingpuppy] sent us this tip about her cleverly-concealed pull-out lightbox drawer. Her resolution for the new year was to make more art, so she filled this coffee table with art supplies and decided she’d draw while relaxing in front of the television. She also wanted a lightbox nearby, which originally involved hacking the entire tabletop with some acrylic, but she eventually opted for a simpler build: and it’s portable, too! The drawer’s lights are battery-powered, so you can pull the entire thing out of the table and drag it onto your lap, if that makes drawing more comfortable.

[Flyingpuppy] sourced seven inexpensive LED units from her local dollar store, which she mounted to the back of the drawer with some screws. The rest of the drawer was lined with white foam board, the bottom section angled to bounce light up onto the acrylic drawing surface. Because she needs to open the case to manually flip on the lights, she secured the acrylic top magnetically, gluing a magnet to the underside of the foam board and affixing a small piece of steel to the acrylic. A simple tug on the steel bit frees the surface, providing access underneath. Stick around for a video below.

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More Lights for your Presents

presLights

Lights on the tree? Check. Presents under the tree? Check. Lights in the presents? Why not! If your gifts don’t look festive enough and you have a spare inductive charging system lying around the house—though, you could always build your own from scratch—you can brighten things up by installing a few LEDs in the packaging.

The Instructable takes advantage of those new-fangled LED Christmas lights, one strand of which typically draws under 1A and requires around 5V, putting it in the ballpark for popular induction systems used to charge cell phones such as the Powermat. In this particular example, the strand ran off 3 AA batteries, or 4.5V, which meant stepping down the voltage either with a power regulator or, more conveniently, a simple diode in series.

Some additional modifications to the packaging tidy up the installation, including carving out some of the cardboard to recess the receiver and securing everything with hot glue before wrapping it all in paper. You can see a quick demonstration video below.

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Arduino-Powered Steampunk Steam Gauge

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[Murphy's_Lawyer] had some empty space on the wall in his kitchen, so he decided to fill it with a whirring Steampunk gizmo: an Arduino-driven steam gauge.

The build began as an old 10″ Ashcroft pressure gauge sourced from eBay, which [Murphy's_Lawyer] dissected to determine the state of its guts. Finding the gauge’s Bourdon tube intact, he got to work constructing a method of generating motion without the need for actual steam. The solution was to mount a continuous rotation servo between the tube and the case. The servo lacked the strength to flex the tube on its own, so [Murphy's_Lawyer] fashioned a simple lever out of brass to help it along.

The electronics consist of an Arduino Uno and an accompanying homemade PCB. The code for the Uno generates random motion for twirling the servo, and three LEDs built into the face reflect values generated for speed, pause and run time. The final upgrade came in the form of a new dial face, which provides some updated text as well as a cutout square that lets you see the previously obscured gears in action. Check out the video below, then see another Steampunk overhaul: the Edwardian Laptop.

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A Killer Arcade Cabinet for Halloween

slaughterhouseArcade

It’s already pretty cool that [Clay] co-owns an Arcade, but he’s really impressed us with his custom-made Splatterhouse cabinet built to get his patrons in the Halloween spirit! A Namco brawler title from 1988, Splatterhouse came in an unadorned and otherwise forgettable cabinet. [Clay] salvaged an old Williams Defender, coating the sides with a cocktail of drywall compound, sand, and paint to achieve a stone texture. He then carved up some pink insulation foam into a tattered “wooden” frame and used it as a monitor bezel. For accents, he fashioned strips of latex to resemble torn flesh and placed them among the boards. The control panel is yet another work of art: [Clay] 3D printed a life-size human femur for the game’s joystick, and converted the buttons to look like eyeballs.

[Clay] decided to go beyond the stunning cosmetics, though, and tapped into the game’s CPU with a custom daughterboard that detects different in-game events and state changes such as player health. An ATMega165 uses four PWM outputs connected to a number of LEDs inside the cabinet and around the monitor bezel to react to the different events. If a player takes damage, red lights flash around the monitor. Inserting a coin or dying in the game causes a different set of LEDs behind the marquee to go nuts.

Check out his detailed project page for more information and see a video overview below. If building a full-scale arcade machine is out of your budget, you can always make a tiny one.

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LED-Guided Piano Instruction

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[Kay Choe] can’t play the piano. Rather, he couldn’t, until he converted his keyboard to include LED-guided instruction. [Kay] is a microbial engineering graduate student, and the last thing a grad student can afford is private music lessons. With $70 in components and a cell phone, however, he may have found a temporary alternative.

The build works like a slimmed-down, real-world Guitar Hero, lighting up each note in turn. We’ve seen a project like this before, with the LEDs mounted above the keys. [Kay]‘s design, however, is much easier to interpret. He embedded the LEDs directly into the keys, including ones above each black key to indicate the sharps/flats. An Android app takes a MIDI file of your choice and parses the data, sending the resulting bits into an IOIO board via USB OTG. A collection of shift registers then drives the LEDs.

For a complete novice, [Kay] seems to benefit from these lights. We are unsure whether the LEDs give any indication of which note to anticipate, however, as it seems he is pressing the keys after each one lights up. Take a look at his video demonstration below and help us speculate as to what the red lights signify. If you’re an electronics savant who wants to make music without practicing a day in your life, we recommend that you check out [Vladimir's] Robot Guitar.

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LED Pocket Watch

LED Pocket Watch

[Frank] wanted a classy way of telling the time, so he built up a LED Pocket Watch. The watch features 132 LEDs for displaying the time, two buttons to activate and change modes, a vibration motor, and a buzzer.

It’s controlled by a picoPower ATmega645P, which has enough pins to drive the array of LEDs, an internal real time clock, and low power consumption. The device is housed behind laser cut acrylic face, and sits in a 3D printed case.

To power the device, [Frank] used a rechargeable lithium coin cell battery. The charging circuitry is based on a MCP73831, which is an easy to integrate charge control IC. A USB connector is used to provide power to the board.

One of the bigger challenges of the design is driving the large array of LEDs. [Frank] uses Charlieplexing to group the LEDs and reduce the number of pins required. Another trick he used was offsetting the ISP header pins. This allows for programming the AVR without soldering a connector to the board.

[Frank]‘s Instructables write-up is very detailed, and includes explanations of the schematic, PCB layout, software design, and case design. It’s a good read that details his design decisions.

After the break, watch [Frank]‘s video overview of the project.

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Thinking Cap is also Party Hat

The Thinking Cap is a piece of wearable signage that lets you display what’s on your mind. The hat uses a Teensy 2.0 connected to a Bluetooth radio to allow the wearer to update the message on the fly, letting the room know what their thinking at that instant.

This hack is based off of LPD8806 controlled LED strips, which are becoming very popular for adding lots of LEDs to anything. There are five strips that need to be controlled over SPI, but the Teensy only has one SPI peripheral.

This lead to the use of multiplexer to allow for controlling each strip individually. The hat uses an interesting and low cost scheme to multiplex five channels using two 744052 dual 4 channel multiplexors and a 7400 inverter.

The Teensy can receive messages using the Bluetooth serial port protocol. The 5 x 7 pixel characters are stored in a framebuffer, and shifted around the hat to create the animation.

The result is a bright message circling around the user’s head, which can be updated with a smartphone over Bluetooth. Check out a video demo of the hat after the break.

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