Arduino Powered Digital Kaleidoscope

kaleidoscope

[Jose's] latest project brings an old visual effect toy up to date with digital electronics. Most of us are familiar with inexpensive kaleidoscope toys. Some of us have even built cheap versions of them with paper tubes, mirrors, and beads. [Jose] wanted to try to recreate the colorful pattern effects created by a kaleidoscope using an Arduino and an addressable LED strip.

The build is actually pretty simple. The base is a disc of PVC cut to just a few inches in diameter. [Jose] started with an addressable LED strip containing 60 LEDs. He then cut it into 12 sections, each containing five LEDs. The smaller strips were then mounted to the disc, similar to spokes on a bicycle wheel. The LED strip already has an adhesive backing, so that part was trivial.

The final step was to add some kind of diffuser screen. The LED strips on their own are not all that interesting. The diffuser allows the light to blend together, forming interesting patterns that are more reminiscent of the patterns you might see in a real kaleidoscope. Without the diffuser you would just see individual points of light, rather than blended color patterns.

The whole thing is controlled by a small Arduino. [Jose] has made the code available at the bottom of his blog post. Be sure to watch the video of the system in action below. [Read more...]

Developing a better way to control 10,000 LEDs

The SoundPuddle project drives thousands of LEDs based on audio input. The team is working on a replacing the controller for this wire-filled setup with something more robust. They took the mess seen above to the Apogaea Festival and were plagued by loose wires and unreliable communications due to noise and interference. The aim of the new system is to reliably control up to 10,000 LEDs.

The red PCB seen at the center of the rats-nest is a Papilio FPGA board. They still want to use it to drive the installation, but a new hardware interface is necessary. The solution is to design what they call a megawing (wings are to Papilio as shields are to Arduino).  The LEDs will be in RGB strip form, so one of the requirements is to supply enough connectors to drive 16 channels of SPI devices. The wing will also include the 48V power source and connectors for the condenser microphone that serves as an input for the SoundPuddle. There are also two other options for audio input, one via a Bluetooth module (which can double as a control device) and the other via MIDI.

After the break you can see a lighting demo. Be ready with the volume controls as most of the sounds used in the test are quite annoying.

[Read more...]

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