The Universal Geospatial Light Switch

project rita

Home automation has existed in one form or another for quite some time, but we thought this take on controlling lights was quite interesting.  Instead of having a menu of lights that you can turn on and off, this Android app lets you point your phone at the device and turn it on or of. Undoubtedly similar to how [Darth Vader] controls his lights at home.

Although the really technical details of this project aren’t listed, this setup reads the compass and GPS output of the Android device to figure out where it’s pointed in space. Combined with a script that understands the layout of the room, and an [X10] automation controller, it’s able to control lights accurately.

Be sure to check out the video of this device in action, or check out [Mike]‘s [Project Rita] blog to see the other interesting projects that he’s working on!

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21st century light bulbs using 3D printer and chemistry equipment

lab-equipment-light-bulbs

[Andreas Hölldorfer] brings his light fixtures into this century by using a couple of modern technologies. The fixtures combine LED modules, 3D printed pieces, and laboratory glassware to give his room a unique look.

The glass enclosure is something he’s had on hand for quite some time but they never actually got used. There is an opening at one end which is meant to receive a stopper. He modeled one including holes for the wires and printed the piece with a 3D printer. Also fabricated in the same way is a bracket that is used for mounting the fixture to the wall. The blossom of components inside the glass are each made up of five LED modules. There’s no word on what he’s using for a power supply or how he managed the cable runs, but he did post an image of two of the fixtures installed in his living room.

Musical light show is far less complex than you might think

color-changing-light-tube

[Matt and Jason Tardy], who make up the musical performance duo known as AudioBody, were recently featured on Make: explaining how they put on one of their trademark segments. The most popular portion of their show features color changing tubes of light which the pair spin and fling around not unlike a higher-tech version of the Blue Man Group. While the visuals are pretty slick, the technique behind it is far simpler than most people initially imagine.

As you can see in video below, the tubes look to be nothing more than simple white lights. As the brothers work through their performance however, the tubes switch from white to blue and back again with a liquid-like transition between the colors.

The [Tardys] say that most people peg a microcontroller or other complex electronics as the source of their light wizardry, but the real answer is much simpler. Embedded in the end of each tube is a bright LED flashlight. A sliding blue filter positioned inside the tube provides the silky smooth transition between colors – no fancy electronics required.

If you would like to see how they were built, be sure to swing by the AudioBody web site for a how-to presentation by the [Tardys] themselves.

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Giant Space Invaders with road barriers and no moving parts

This is space invaders on the large-scale. To give you an idea of just how big this is, that’s a street lamp to the left. It’s being played on the side of a building, but it’s not really done the easy way. We’ve seen gaming on the sides of buildings by using projectors, but this one is more like a classic LCD handheld game… just really really big.

Each of the game pieces is hung in place on a black backdrop. The invaders themselves are molded-plastic road construction barricades. The shield area on the bottom is made op of center-lane dividers. All of the pieces are wired with lights that can be addressed by a central controller. As you can see after the break, just one button gets the action under way.

This is along the same line as the Christmas Light game we saw several years back. If you’ve got some extra strings of lights and don’t mind building a controller we think you should add a little fun to the neighborhood with your own giant installation. Just don’t forget to send in some pictures.

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Troubleshooting household light timers

timer-repair

When [Todd Harrison’s] Christmas lights stayed on well past the pre-defined shut off time, he knew there was something wrong with the timer. He took the device into his workshop and spent some time diagnosing and repairing the device, a process he recorded for all to see.

After busting the screw-less timer open with a hammer, he inspected the PCB for any apparent signs of damage. After seeing what looked like a damaged transistor, he desoldered it from the board for testing. After the transistor passed his tests with flying colors, [Todd] assumed that the fault had to be in the relay which the transistor was responsible for switching.

Sure enough, the relay had shorted out, and upon cutting it open he found that the contact points were fused together. He separated and sanded the contacts down, enabling him to get the timer working – at least for the time being.

Part of [Todd’s] goal with this video was to show off different methods of desoldering, including a manual solder sucker (my favorite), desoldering braid, and a purpose built desoldering iron. If you’re in the market for some desoldering tools, but don’t know what to buy, [Todd] is more than happy to offer his advice.

Continue reading to see a video of [Todd's] troubleshooting process.

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Children’s light up toy is an easy hand-made gift

light-and-switch-toy

While this year’s Christmas lists are dominated by electronic gadgets and other mass-produced toys, it wasn’t always like that. We’re not trying to sound like the old man yelling at the neighborhood kids to get off his lawn, but many of today’s gifts lack the personal touch found in old, hand-made toys.

[henlij’s] son is a budding electronics geek who loves playing with switches and lights, so he was inspired to build him a fun toy to pass the time. He constructed a simple box full of lights and switches that his son could toggle on and off to his heart’s content.

While there’s not a ton going on inside the box, we think that the idea is fantastic. With just a few dollars worth of simple components, anyone who knows their way around a soldering station can build something that will keep a child fascinated for hours.

There’s no reason to stop at buttons and lights either. If we were to build one, we would swap the bulbs out for LEDs, then add a wide variety of switches and dials along with speakers and any other components we could get our hands on.

The options are pretty limitless, so if you happen to know a child that gets a kick out of playing with buttons and switches, why not make him or her something special this year, much like [henlij] did for his son?

DIY LED photography lights

led-light-box

[Markus] had been drooling over some LED panels to use as a soft light source for photography, but being a hobbyist, he didn’t want to spend a ton of money to buy them. He figured that he had enough electronics know-how to build his own panels, while saving a boatload of cash in the process.

He hoped to keep the total cost under £100, so along with new items like LED light strips, he would have to use some stuff he had sitting around, like the metal cooking containers that make up the body of the lights. While originally planned for use in a different project, it turns out that the cooking containers were ideal for his lighting setup, since they are both durable and great heatsink material.

The remainder of the build is pretty straightforward. [Markus] used a pre-made LED dimmer to control the panel’s brightness, along with some tinted plexiglas to diffuse the light while bringing the color temperature into a more usable range.

While he missed his £100 mark, the lights look great – we just might have to build a few of them ourselves.

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