Gemma-Powered NeoPixel Sound Reactive Drums


This tutorial from Adafruit shows how to create a custom interactive drum set that lights up with sound. It uses a mic amp sensor that is connected to a miniature Arduino Gemma board to detect when the instrument is being hit by the sticks. Neopixels then illuminate into a range of colors creating a beautifully synced up music presentation.

The container that houses the electronics is 3D printed. The entire circuit is integrated into the snare, mid-tom, hi-tom and a drum kick. All the code and step-by-step instructions can be found on Adafruit’s website. Now imagine something like this being packed up in a suitcase and carried from venue to venue as an up-and-coming band travels from state to state on tour; especially at Drum n’ Bass raves or electronic based music festivals. A video of the kit being used is below.

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Teaching the Word Clock Some New Tricks


[Joakim] has built a clock that spells out the time in words. Wait a second – word clock, what is this, 2009? Word clocks are one of those projects that have become timeless. When we see a build that stands out, we make sure to write it up. [Joakim's] clock is special for a number of reasons. The time is spelled out in Norwegian, and since the clock is a birthday gift for [Daniel], [Joakim] added the his full name to the clock’s repertoire.

One of the hard parts of word clock design is controlling light spill. [Joakim] used a simple 3D printed frame to box each LED in. This keeps the spill under control and makes everything easier to read. The RGB LED’s [Joakim] used are also a bit different from the norm. Rather than the WS2812 Neopixel, [Joakim] used LPD8806 LED strips. On the controller side [Joakim] may have gone a bit overboard in his choice of an Arduino Yun, but he does put the ATmega328 and Embedded Linux machine to good use.

The real magic happens at boot. [Daniel's] name lights up in red, with various letters going green as each step completes. A green ‘D’ indicates an IP address was obtained from the router’s DHCP server. ‘N’ switches to green when four NTP servers have been contacted, and the Linux processor is reasonably sure it has the correct time. The last letter to change will be the ‘E’, which reports ambient light.

[Joakim] added a web interface to trigger his new features, such as a rainbow color palette, or the ability to show minutes by changing the color of the letters K,L,O,K. The final result is a slick package, which definitely brings a 2009 era design up to 2014 standards!

PIC Up a NeoPixel Ring and C What You Can Do Using This Tutorial

lit ringAs [Shahriar] points out in the introductory matter to his latest video at The Signal Path, Arduinos are a great way for a beginner to dig into all kinds of electronic excitement, but they do so at the cost of isolating that beginner from the nitty gritty of microcontrollers. Here, [Shahriar] gives a very thorough walkthrough of a 60-neopixel ring starting with the guts and glory of a single RGB LED. He then shows how that ring can easily be programmed using a PIC and some C.

[Shahriar]‘s eval board is a simple setup that he’s used for other projects. It’s based on the PIC18F4550 which he’s programming with an ICD-U64. The PIC is powered through USB, but he’s using a separate switching supply to power the ring itself since he would need ~60mA per RGB to make them burn white at full brightness.

He’s written a simple header file that pulls in the 18F4550 library, sets the fuses, and defines some constants specific to the ring size. As he explains in the video, the PIC can create a 48MHz internal clock from a 20Mhz crystal and he sets up this delay in the header as well. The main code deals with waveform generation, and [Shahriar] does a great job explaining how this is handled with a single pin. Before he lights up the ring, he puts his scope on the assigned GPIO pin to show that although the datasheet is wrong about the un-delayed width of the low period for a zero bit, it still works to program the LEDs.

[Shahriar] has the code available on his site. He is also holding a giveaway open to US residents: simply comment on his blog post or on the video at YouTube and you could win either a TPI Scope Plus 440 with probes and a manual or a Tektronix TDS2232 with GPIB. He’ll even pay the shipping.

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Visualize Vroom with This RGB LED Tachometer

tach[Pete Mills] recently bought the all-new Ford Fiesta, which offers impressive fuel economy over that of his Jeep. He soon figured out that he has real time access to a wealth of engine and chassis data through Ford’s OpenXC platform and used it to build blueShift, a neopixel tachometer. The car already has a tach, but this one is more visual, can be seen in periphery, and is just plain fun.

In case you hadn’t heard, the OpenXC platform is Ford’s consumer key to the kingdom of OBD2 treasures. It unlocks the magic through its Vehicle Interface, which plugs into the OBD2 port and translates the CAN bus messages to OpenXC format. These messages are packaged into JSON format and can be sent over Bluetooth or Ethernet/Wi-Fi to an Android, Python, or iOS device.

[Pete] went with Bluetooth and used a BlueSMiRF with an Arduino Pro Mini. He derives power from the car’s on-board USB port, but has future plans to use the OpenXC VI port. blueShift reads the RPM data and displays a green trail as the engine revs up. At the peak revolution, it shows a red LED. This one is sticky and will persist for the lesser of three seconds or the time elapsed to a new positive RPM. [Pete] is also reading the headlight status of the car. As soon as they come on, the RGB LEDs dim to avoid blinding him at night.

[Pete] wanted to make an enclosure more finished-looking than a Tupperware box. He nearly detoured into 3D-printer design, but ended up putting together a Prusa i3v and came up with this RAM mount-compatible enclosure. His fantastic write-up and code are on his blog, but you can make the jump to see a short demo and a full explanation video. You can also make smart brake lights or even create art with OpenXC.

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Network Controlled Decorative LED Matrix Frame

LED-Pixel-FrameThere is nothing better than a project that you can put on display for all to see. [Tristan's] most recent project, a Decorative LED Matrix Frame, containing 12×10 big square pixels that can display any color, is really cool.

Having been built around a cheap IKEA photo frame this project is very doable, at least for those of you with a 3D printer. The 3D printer is needed to create the pixel grid, which ends up looking very clean in the final frame. From an electronics perspective, the main components are a set of Adafruit Neopixel LED strips, and an Arduino Uno with an Ethernet shield. The main controller even contains a battery backup for the real time clock (RTC) when the frame is unplugged; a nice touch. Given that the frame is connected to the local network, [Tristan] designed the frame to be controlled by a simple HTML5 interface (code available on GitHub). This allows any locally connected device to control the frame.

Be sure to check out the build details, they are very well done. If you are still not convinced how cool this project is, be sure to check out a video of it in action after the break! It makes us wish that you could play Tetris on this frame. Very nice job [Tristan]!

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Driving 1000 NeoPixels With 1k Of Arduino RAM


NeoPixels, or WS2812 RGB LEDs, are the display device du jour for impressive and blinding lighting projects. Commonly known for very tight timing requirements, [Josh] discovered this is, in fact, usually unnecessary. The timing requirements for NeoPixels aren’t as bad as they seem, once you get to know them.

The official WS2812 timing specs give values that are fairly constraining for anyone writing a library to drive these RGB LED pixels, but simplifying the timing diagram by assuming a 50% duty cycle on the data lines and ignoring the longer maximum times results in a surprising conclusion: the only tight timing parameter for NeoPixel signaling is the maximum width of the 0-bit pulse.

Realizing this, [Josh] wrote a simple demo program to drive over 1000 NeoPixels – an 11 meter long strip – using 1K of RAM on an Arduino. The trick comes by simply delaying the bitbanging a set number of cycles. No obtuse assembly required.

There is only one problem with [Josh]‘s method of driving a nearly unlimited amount of NeoPixels – building a display where every NeoPixel is an element in a larger image, such as in a video display, is impossible on systems with limited amounts of RAM. The code writes values to the NeoPixel strip algorithmically, so if you can’t build your animation with for loops, you’re out of luck. Still, Driving this many NeoPixels is a migraine trigger, and we have to give [Josh] credit for doing this with 1K of RAM.

Check out the video of [Josh]‘s extreme NeoPixel strip below.

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Wearable flames with fur and LED strips


[Finchronicity] over on Hackaday Projects has made a pretty awesome furry LED Vest to keep him warm and well lit at this year’s Burning Man. He is using a Teensy 3.0 that drives strips of 470 WS2811 LEDs.

The vertically aligned strips run on a continuous sequence which reaches up to 31 frames per second using precompiled animations. The effects rendered in Processing or video mapped, are captured frame by frame and stored as raw color data to an SD card. Playback uses the NeoPixel library to control the strips. The high resolution LEDs, with the video mapped fire and the long pile fur, create one of the nicest flame effects we have seen on clothing.

We’ve also seen the Teensy 3.0 and WS2811 LEDs used as a popular combination for building huge displays, a 23ft tall pyramid, and more recently in the RFID jacket at Make Fashion 2014. Have you made or seen a great Teensy/WS2811 project you would like to share with us? If so, let us know the details in the comments below.

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