Swarm Light At Art Basel

What has 9000 LEDs, 3000 MSP430 processors, six XMOS XC-2 Ethernet modules, and goes blinkity-blink-blink? It’s Swarm Light, an art installation shown at this year’s Art Basel exhibition. [Fredrik Petrini] worked on the hardware that went into building the group of three 3D cubes of LED light modules. Unlike so many art pieces we see he shared the design details of the piece. In the image above you can tell that each cube encompasses several rods of LED modules. Each rod as three rails that provide power, ground, and serial data in addition to serving as the physical structure. Each module has three LEDs on it controlled by one MSP430 processor. The XMOS units each control half of the rods in a cube, getting their instructions over an Ethernet connection from a PC running a program on a .NET framework. It would be an understatement to say this is just a upscaled LED cube. Check out the exhibit in action after the break. It uses an algorithm to analyze the music, taking input from the ambient sound in the room, to control the light fluctuation.

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Tetris Code Theory Explained


[Graham] designed this PIC based Tetris game on a single board. The hardware is quite nice but we enjoyed his explanation of the graphics algorithm that he used. Having coded Tetris from the ground up ourselves we understand how difficult it is to explain how the program works. Tracking pieces already on the board as well as moving pieces, making sure that rotation won’t cause a collision with another piece or go out-of-bounds, and looking for completed lines all add up to one bid headache.

[Graham’s] method for handling rotation involves choosing a point around which to rotate, measuring how this affects each pixel in the piece, and then checking those pixels for overlaps. It may take a couple of readings, but he’s done a brilliant job of making it understandable. There’s a demo after the break and the link at the top takes you to his treatise on Tetris. Continue reading “Tetris Code Theory Explained”

Reverse GeoCache Puzzle Gets Downsized

[Markus] built his own reverse geocache puzzle box but on a smaller scale than the original. His is based around a PIC 18F2520 and powered by two AAA batteries. The user interface includes one button, a 16×2 character LCD, and a piezo speaker. The box unlocks itself when the GPS module inside detects the proper location on the globe. There is also a secret code that can be tapped on the button to unlock the box prematurely, and another to show the locations in which the user attempted to open the box. This build doesn’t leave much room for a payload, but [Markus] did a great job designing the board and making the components fit as efficiently as possible.

Hackaday Links: June 20, 2010

Nixie Voltmeter Clock

[Gmglickman] built a clock out of an old digital voltmeter. The Fluke 8300A came out in 1969 and is featured in their 60 years of innovation slideshow. What makes it a cool clock? The Voltmeter’s display is made up of Nixie tubes.

Easy optical encoder wheel generator

If you need to print out encoder wheels for your project there is an online tool you can use. It has almost any setting you would want to make a rotary encoder wheel.The black wheel can be used with old mouse parts and the checkered wheel with an optical sensor. [Thanks Bluewraith]

New CD without the CD

1-bit Symphony is a newly released album. It come in a CD jewel case but there’s no CD included. That’s because they’ve built a circuit to playback their music via a headphone jack. We didn’t see any info on what microcontroller was used, but we love the cleanliness of the design. This apparently isn’t the first time the artist has released an album like this either.[Thanks Juan]

Making a standard SIM work with the iPad

[Tony Million] used a standard SIM to reduce the monthly cost of using broadband on the iPad. This is the exact opposite of using the iPad SIM in an iPhone and requires that you cut down your standard SIM quite a lot. [Tony] did this because he imported his iPad to the UK from the United States and using AT&T wasn’t an option for him. [Thanks David]

16TB NAS is a thing of beauty

The Black Dwarf is a sixteen terabyte network attached storage device that looks more like a display counter for high-end hard drives. We’d usually think of this as a closet or basement dweller, but an item this gorgeously crafted deserves a place of honor in your home or office. Documenting the entire process was as complex as the build itself. We like seeing the time-lapse version. [Thanks Howard via Engadget]