A Raspi Ambilight With HDMI Input

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With the Raspberry Pi now most famously known as a $30 media PC, it only makes sense that the best uses for the GPIO pins on the Pi are used for an Ambilight. [Great Scott Labs] put up a great video on using the Pi as a uniquely configurable Ambilight with Hyperion and just about any video input imaginable.

This isn’t the first Ambilight clone [Great Scott] has put together, but for the first version the Ambilight functioned only under Raspbian and not any random HDMI input. The new version solves this by using an HDMI splitter box, feeding into an HDMI to composite converter, and finally into a USB composite capture dongle attached to the Raspi.

With the software in the instructions, the Raspi effectively mirrors the video coming from the video capture dongle. The Pi is running Hyperion to control a strip of WS2801 RGB LEDs, making the back of any TV glowey and blinkey.

Since [Great Scott] is using a component video signal as an input, the adapters necessary to have any device work with this Ambilight are readily available. We’d honestly like to see this build working with the old Commodore disk access screen border going nuts, so be sure to send that in if you ever get that working.

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Massive LED Display Makes Use of Reused Soda Bottles

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What better way to make a giant LED display than out of old empties and bottle crates? This is the Mate Light (pronounced Mah-Tay).

We were first introduced to the ever popular Club-Mate soda at one of the first hackerspaces we visited during our Hackerspacing in Europe Tour. It’s a soft drink produced in Germany, which seems to be the exclusive non-alcoholic drink of choice for almost all hackerspaces in Western Europe. The spaces in the Netherlands and Belgium would even make road trips to Germany just to load up a van with the drink to bring back home. Personally we didn’t really understand what was so special about it, but maybe we just didn’t drink enough!

Anyway, this impressive display makes use of 640 empties arranged in 4 rows of 8 crates for a decent 16 x 40 resolution. Each bottle is wrapped in aluminum foil and contains one RGB LED with a WS2801 driver. Each row of crates is connected to a TI Stellaris Launchpad, which has four hardware SPI interfaces — conveniently the number of rows of crates used! From there, an ancient ThinkPad T22 laptop runs the control program over USB to the microcontroller board. Their first software implementation used a Python script which was painfully slow — they’re now putting the finishing touches on using a C script instead.

Stick around to see the display in all of its awesomeness.

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PixelBrite is an LED wall/coffee table done right

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The scope of this project is almost as jaw-dropping as the cost of the parts. [LeoneLabs] calls the project PixelBrite. It’s a highly-polished modular RGB LED panel system, and he’s not keeping it a secret. We think it’s reasonable to call the build documentation mammoth. If you’re a fan of fast-motion assembly videos he’s got you covered there as well.

It’s interesting to compare this build to some of the Daft Punk tables from years back. It shows how economies of scale in the hobby electronics industry have helped new and affordable products to emerge. For instance, this offering is a 10×10 grid which is outside of the normal 8 pixel wide orientation dictated by 8-bit microcontrollers. The reason for the change is that this doesn’t use a matrix built with point-to-point soldering. It uses a string of RGB pixels (WS2801).

The enclosure is also a thing of beauty. The dividers that make up each cell are laser cut foam board. This makes the joints very tight to prevent light from leaking into the next cell. The housing is acrylic held in place by an aluminum rail system. Need more than one panel? No problem, a single connector chains one panel to the next. But we did mentioned the cost of materials. Unassembled you can expect to drop over five hundred bones for the pleasure of seeing this thing blink.

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Web based automation courtesy of Raspberry Pi

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This project is a great example of the Raspberry Pi’s ability to eclipse Arduino when it comes to interaction. [Fall Deaf] mentions that he used to use an Arduino board with an Ethernet shield to add extensible interactivity to his project. But this one, which is a home automation lamp project, uses a Raspberry Pi instead. The concepts end up being very similar. But the cost of the hardware is less and the coding work is arguably orders of magnitude easier.

Don’t get us wrong, the hardware is fundamentally different. When you move from Arduino to RPi you lose some I/O pins and the low level control of them isn’t quite as straight-forward. But you also don’t have to program the thing in C. The Linux kernel handles the low level control which means you can write your scripts using Python. Because Python is an interpreted language the testing and debugging is much faster — no need to flash new code, just run the script again.

This project used the RPi GPIO to drive a strip of LEDs which use the WS2801 protocol. The board includes a NIC which makes it a snap to use as a web server. The smart phone controls seen above are served up from the Pi using jQuery. Right now there’s a cord running out of the lamp. But there should be plenty of room to use a screw-in outlet adapter and to hide the RPi and its PSU inside.

The board still has enough juice to drive other automation features too, like acting as a web radio server.

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LED strip Pong as an Arduino shield

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[Schuyler Sowa] has been hard at work on his own version of LED strip Pong. We’d say his work has really paid off. The game is robust and full of features.

Unlike the original Pong video game LED pong only has one axis on which the ball travels. The ball will bounce back if the button at the end of the strip is pressed when either of the last two LED pixels are illuminated. To add in a difficulty adjustment [Schuyler] included a poteniometer which alters the speed.

The game board is one meter of LED strip with individually addressable pixels. It cost a whopping $28 and was the second kind he tried after having trouble with the WS2801 based version (which often come as strings of lights). An Arduino board controls the game, with a shield made from protoboard to connect the components. In addition to the two user buttons — which were hacked out of a computer keyboard — you’ll notice a pair of seven segment displays acting as a scoreboard and an HD44780 character LCD rounding out the user interface.

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Ambilight clone has meaningful amount of resolution

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We don’t have an Ambilight clone on our own home theater, but seeing this one in action makes us wonder if we shouldn’t add it to the ever-growing list of projects we need to tackle (right below that POV display we’ve been putting off for years). [Falldeaf] built the colored light augmentation system using a set of WS2801 controlled LED pixels. There are a lot of them, and this results in the ‘meaningful resolution’ we mentioned in the title. The image on the screen is the opening to a James Bond film. You’ll remember that the camera shot down a rifle barrel follows him as he walks across the screen. There’s enough LEDs here to have to the light follow him across the screen as well. This is a nice touch that we don’t see in every Ambilight clone project.

A frame of fake-wood angle bracket holds each LED pixel in place. The entire assembly attaches to the VESA mounting holes on the back of the television. An Arduino addresses the lights while the Boblight package processes the video to acquire the lighting instructions. We think the hue is a bit off, but otherwise it’s a solid offering.

We’re still hoping the Microsoft IllumiRoom becomes a thing.

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