Controlling Ten Thousand RGB LEDs

LEDsRGB LEDs are awesome – especially the new, fancy ones with the WS2812 RGB LED driver. These LEDs can be individually controlled to display red, green, and blue, but interfacing them with a microcontroller or computer presents a problem: microcontrollers generally don’t have a whole lot of RAM to store an image, and devices with enough memory to do something really cool with these LEDs don’t have a real-time operating system or the ability to do the very precise timing these LEDs require.  [Sprite_tm] thought about this problem and came up with a great solution for controlling a whole lot of these WS2812 LEDs.

[Sprite] figured there was one device on the current lot of ARM/Linux boards that provides the extremely precise timing required to drive a large array of WS2812 LEDs: the video interface. Even though the video interface on these boards is digital, it’s possible to turn the 16-bit LCD interface on an oLinuXino Nano into something that simply spits out digital values very fast with a consistent timing. Just what a huge array of RGB pixels needs.

Using a Linux board to drive RGB pixels using the video output meant [Sprite_tm] needed video output. He’s running the latest Linux kernel, so he didn’t have the drivers to enable the video hardware. Not a problem for [Sprite], as he can just add a few files to define the 16-bit LCD interface and add the proper display mode.

[Sprite_tm] already taken an oscilloscope to his board while simulating 16 strips of 600 LEDs, and was able to get a frame rate of 30 fps. That’s nearly 10,000 LEDs controlled by a single €22/$30USD board.

Now the only obstacle for building a huge LED display is actually buying the RGB LED strips. A little back-of-the-envelope math tells us a 640×480 display would be about $50,000 in LEDs alone. Anyone know where we can get these LED strips cheap?

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UFO-looking RGB LED RC Plane Lights Up the Night, Uses All the Acronyms

[Roballoba] decided to combine his love for RC planes, things that light up, and photography, and we’re glad he did. He shares his method in this Instructable for illuminating a bare styrofoam replacement fuselage for a Parkzone Stryker RC plane.  There are many more amazing pictures there as well.

He used low-tack tape to lay out the LED strips on the fuselage, solder the connections, and test them. Once he was satisfied with the arrangment, he flipped the strips face down so the foam diffuses the light. The lights are powered by a 12V Li-Po battery he soldered to a deans connector. Finally, [Roballoba] covered  and heat sealed everything with Doculam, a very cost-effective laminate that offers great protection and security.

He used some LED corn lights as afterburners, which is a nice touch of realism. There is a video after the break where [Roballoba] shows us the connections up close and then runs through some light show options.  Another video of a nighttime flight is waiting for you in the write up.

Spent too much money on eggnog and a new console this year to be able to replicate this build? $30 will snag what you need for this smartphone-controlled paper plane we featured a few weeks back. You could always BeDazzle it.

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Fubarino Contest: A Sculpted Room With LEDs

Room

[Sisam] and [Mclien] are a father and son team that built this sculptural room with an organic looking built-in seating area and sculpted lamp shades. When you have a room that looks this cool, the only option you have is to fill it with RGB LEDs, and it just so happens their light controller has a great Hackaday Easter egg.

The room lighting is provided by a Shifty VU shield, OctoBar LED controller, and a few of these RGB LED modules. All pretty standard for an RGB LED project, but where this contest submission really shines is the controller for all the room lights. It has three sliders for the red, green, and blue channels, beefy toggle switches for each light location, an LCD for showing the program mode, a rotary switch, and push buttons for cycling through stored setups.

The Easter egg for this project comes into play whenever the color value of the lights is set to Hackaday green, #00c100. When that happens, the Hackaday URL is displayed on the controller’s display.

Awesome work, and a really cool-looking room. We wouldn’t mind a tutorial on how you sculpted it, [Sisam].


This is an entry in the Fubarino Contest for a chance at one of the 20 Fubarino SD boards which Microchip has put up as prizes!

Freeside’s Infinity Portal

sidebyside

If infinity mirrors aren’t cool enough, the 10-foot-tall infinity portal should blow you away. Strictly speaking, the mirror itself is only 7’x4′, but you’ll still find yourself engulfed in the archway. The portal began as a simple prototype that we covered earlier this summer, which was just a frame of 2×4’s, some acrylic and LED strips. It works by putting lights between a two-way mirror and another mirror, reflecting most light internally and creating the illusion of depth.

The giant archway also began as a small-scale prototype, its shape and engravings carved out by a laser cutter. Once they were satisfied with its design, it was time to scale things up. The full-sized portal needed a a tremendous amount of stability, so the guys at Freeside built the base from wooden palettes. They needed the portal to travel to a few different venues, so the rest of the frame breaks down into components, including a removable wooden frame from which the acrylic hangs. A Teensy 3.0 runs all the WS2812 LED strips, which were chosen because each of their LEDs is individually addressable.

Check out the video below for an extremely detailed build log, which should give you a better idea of how massive and impressive this portal really is!

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FlightDeck: A “Touchless” MIDI Controller

flightdeckmidi

[Edward] wanted a different way to modulate notes on his MIDI controller, so he decided to go touchless. Inspired by the pressure-sensing modulation on his Edirol keyboard, [Edward] aligned eight sensors into a row of playable notes and used infrared to sense the distance of a player’s hand from the keys. He also included some function buttons to cycle through 10 octaves and RGB LEDs beneath the table that perform alongside the music.

He chose SHARP GP2D120 sensors (direct link to datasheet) for their low threshold, which allowed the board to detect distance close to the sensor. Each is mounted onto a sheet of frosted acrylic along with its own “hold note” button and an LED to indicate the key is playing. The lower panel houses an Arduino Mega that drives the system along with an RGB LED strip and its driver board. [Edward] used Maxuino and OSC-Route to interface the Mega to a Max/MSP patch which runs the show.

Learn more about the FlightDeck’s features in a video demonstration of the controller and the software after the break, then check out some other MIDI hacks like this organ pedal or the Arduino-driven MIDI sequencer.

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Interactive Boozeshelf is its own Dance Party

boozeshelf

[Jeremy] refused to settle on your typical alcohol storage options, and instead created the Boozeshelf. Like most furniture hacks, the Boozeshelf began as a basic IKEA product, which [Jeremy] modified by cutting strips of wood to serve as wine glass holders and affixing the front end of a wine rack at the base to store bottles.

In its standard operating mode the Boozeshelf lies dark and dormant. Approaching it triggers a cleverly recessed ultrasonic sensor that gently illuminates some LEDs, revealing the shelf’s contents. When you walk away, then lights fade out. An Arduino Mega running [Jeremy's] custom LEDFader library drives the RGB LED strips, which he wired with some power MOSFETS to handle current demands.

[Jeremy] didn’t stop there, however, adding an additional IR receiver that allows him to select from three different RGB LED color modes: simple crossfading, individual shelf colors (saved to the on-board EEPROM), or the festive favorite: “Dance Party Mode.” Stick around after the break to see [Jeremy] in full aficionado attire demonstrating his Boozeshelf in a couple of videos. Considering blackouts are a likely result of enjoying this hack, we recommend these LED ice cubes for your safety.

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Temp-Sensitive Automatic Blinds

blindMinder

Any opportunity to shave a few bucks off your power bill is probably worth considering, especially if it’s a device like [Steve Hoefer's] Mini Blind Minder. This little guy staves off (or welcomes) the sun by monitoring the room with a temperature sensor and checking against a setpoint. If the room is too warm or too cool, the top-mounted servo will spin the wand and close or open the blinds, respectively.

[Steve] started by building a homemade Arduino shield from some perfboard to which he added a handful of discrete components: some current-limiting resistors for the RGB LED indicator light and a 10k trim pot for fine-tuning the temp sensor. Although this build forgoes an LCD readout to display precise information, it does provide feedback by stepping the RGB LED’s color through a spectrum of blue to red to indicate how the current room temperature compares to your setpoint. The two momentary pushbuttons beneath the light allow the user to adjust the setpoint up or down.

See the video below for a detailed guide to building your own, and take a look at a similar automatic blinds build from earlier this year that opens and closes in response to ambient light.

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