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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800+ LED Wall With Diffuser Panel is a Work of Art

LED Wall

What happens when you take over 800 individually addressable super bright RGB LEDs and house them in a giant diffused panel? You get awesome. That’s what you get.

[Epoch Rises] is a small electronic music and interactive technology duo who create cool interactive projects (like this wall) for their live shows and performances. They love their WS2812B LEDs.

The cool thing about this wall is that it can take any video input, it can be controlled by sound or music, an iPad, or even generate random imagery by itself. The 800 LEDs are controlled by a Teensy 3.0 using the OctoWS2811 library from Paul Stoffregen which is capable of driving over 1000 LEDs at a whopping 30FPS using just one Teensy microcontroller. It works by using Direct Memory Access to send data over serial into the Teensy’s memory and directly out to the LEDs with very little overhead — it is a Teensy after all!

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THP Hacker Bio: infinityis


That profile picture is full of pure joy! Meet [infinityis], aka [David Hoelscher] — don’t worry, we’re not revealing his secret identity; he posted his real name on his profile page.

His entry for The Hackaday Prize is a functional show piece to greet guests when they step into his home. His Waterfall Wall will serve as a way to separate the living space from the entryway. The top portion of it is a water feature which will be edge-lit with LEDs whose color will be controlled wirelessly. The bottom part of the wall will provide some storage space.

Join us after the break to find out more about [David], and check out his THP video for a brief introduction to his Waterfall Wall.

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Blinding Shades Hide Wearer’s Four Eyes


We ran into [Garrett Mace] at Maker Faire. He wasn’t exhibiting, but in keeping with the fun he made something to show off. This pair of RGB LED Shades was assembled the night before. They may have been hacked together, but they were in no way a hack. Especially of interest to us is the hinge design which is made of PCB substrate and a few machine screws.

Our video above does a pretty good job of showing off the blinky patterns he coded. What’s surprising to us is that the wearer is almost no view of the light the specs are emitting. The slots aren’t that hard to see out of either, and they hide [Garrett's] prescription glasses quite nicely. This pair steps up from the single color version we saw a couple of years back. That set was also on display, but you really do need to get a closer look at the newer design. Luckily it took us so long to get this video edited that the Macetech blog now has complete details.

Roman Headgear Looks Less Silly With Lots of Blinky


Look, it’s not Steam-Punk because the period is way out of whack. And we’ve never seen ourselves as “that guy” at the party. But it would be pretty hard to develop The Centurion Project and not take the thing to every festive gathering you could possibly attend. This sound-reactive helm compels party-going in a toga-nouveau sort of way.

[Roman] tells us that it started as a movie prop. The first build step was to remove the plume from the top of it. The replacement — seven meters worth of addressable RGB LEDS — looks just enough like an epic mohawk to elicit visions of the punk rock show, with the reactive patterns to make it Daft. The unexpected comes with the FFT generated audio visualizations. They’re grounded on the top side of each of the LED strips. Most would call that upside-down but it ends up being the defining factor in this build. Seriously, watch the demo after the break and just try to make your case that this would have been better the other way around.

As a final note, this project was written using Cinder. It’s an Open Source C++ library that we don’t remember hearing about before.

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WS2812b Ambilight Clone For The Raspi


For how often the Raspberry Pi is used as a media server, and how easy it is to connect a bunch of LEDs to the GPIO pins on the Pi, we’re surprised we haven’t seen something like Hyperion before. It uses the extremely common WS2812b individually controllable RGB LEDs to surround the wall behind your TV with the colors on the edges of the screen.

One of the big features of Hyperion is the huge number of LEDs it’s able to control; a 50 LED strip only eats up about 1.5% of the Pi’s CPU. It does this with a “Mini UART” implemented on the Pi running at 2MHz.

There’s only one additional component needed to run a gigantic strip of RGB LEDs with a Pi – an inverter of some sort made with an HCT-series logic chip. After that, you’ll only need to connect the power and enjoy a blinding display behind your TV or monitor.

Thanks [emuboy] for sending this one in.


Companion Cube Christmas Lights Improved With Neopixels


[Crenn] obtained a string of official companion cube lights from Valve, but being in Australia couldn’t put them to their non-judgemental glory without the use of a step down transformer. They sat on the workbench for a few months until an idea was hatched: replace the bulbs with an Adafruit Neopixel strip, making these wonderful inanimate friends a string of individually addressable RGB LEDs.

The process of converting these cubes required stuffing a very small 9.4mm PCB inside. This PCB was designed in KiCAD thanks to a few classes at the Melbourne hackerspace. The board files were sent off, PCBs received, soldered up, and stuffed into the cubes.

Control is via a Duemilanove with a single IO pin using the Neopixel library. All the code, board files, and schematics are available on the gits. Future improvements might include a 3D printed cable relief and a way to securely mount the PCBs to the inside of the cubes.

Video available below.

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