Particle System Busy Box Keeps Baby Occupied


Any child born today has a bright future ahead of them—mostly consisting of watching glowing rectangles for 80 or 90 years. To give his progeny a jump-start on a lifetime of watching LEDs flicker, [Dan] created a busy box. It’s really just an Arduino, RGB LED matrix, and a programmed particle system, but if we’re fascinated by it, it will probably blow an infant’s mind.

The idea for this busy box originated with an earlier Hackaday post that used an 8×8 matrix of RGB LEDs to create a moving color cloud. [Dan] took this project as a jumping off point and created an infant’s busy box with four modes that are sure to be entertaining.

Inside the is a Rainboduino: an Arduino compatible board capable of driving an 8×8 RGB LED matrix. Also stuffed inside the busy box is a 9V battery, rocker switch for the power, and four arcade buttons that cycle through each mode. The first mode is some sort of ‘plasma cloud’ simulation, the next is a ‘painter’ light display. The final two modes spell out [Dan]’s spawn’s name, and all the numbers and letters of the alphabet.

20 thoughts on “Particle System Busy Box Keeps Baby Occupied

  1. I have to wonder how creative someone who is conditioned to constant stimulation from a very early age will be. There’s a lot to be said for a limited repertoire of objects which must be transformed by imagination. Childhood is the human programming process, so the choice of programing matters a lot.

    1. I worry about this a great deal. So far, it appears likely that the resources available today just vastly swamp out the negatives. How often have you thought “Wow, I wish I had that resource growing up”.. ? For me that’s about a weekly thing.

      What still makes that worrying for me is wondering if kids will stick to something long enough to make actual accomplishments or if they’ll just move on when it gets too hard. My son, at 7, spends an insane amount of time in Minecraft and watching Minecraft videos if you let him… so maybe it’s not going to be that bad.

      1. Who knows… Maybe having that short attention span you speak of will be a positive thing in the world of the future. People are becoming a lot more nomadic as modern society evolves.. You change jobs a lot more frequently, you relocate residences a lot more, technology moves at such a rapid pace that things can become outdated or obsolete in only a year or twos time… And the rate of change is getting exponentially faster as technology builds on itself.

        The brain rewards the most success with the least effort.. It’s natural. Maybe it’s a good thing that their brains are developing to assimilate and move on very quickly, rather than lingering on old ideas.

        I have a 3 year old. These are very exciting times. This will be the first generation to have instant access to all the worlds knowledge from birth… Kind of weird.

      2. If you go back and read the “letters from readers” sections of old magazines you’ll see people have been saying the next generation will be dumber, have shorter attention spans, or whatever else for a long time. It’s been wrong so far, at least in the ways the people saying it meant, so I pretty much assume similar statements made today are also wrong, at least until someone shows me actual scientific evidence.

        It’s funny, growing up my dad would say my generation had shorter attention spans…then he’d bitch at me for playing the same computer game for six hours.

  2. A nice build. I’d be tempted by the 32 x 32 LED grids that Sparkfun do for a higher resolution.

    However if his kid is anything like my son who’s now 2, they’ll just want to play with whatever phone or tablet they see daddy using.

  3. Wow, either the world is doomed or set to be great. People have been raising kids just fine thus far without all this newage Dr. Spock shit (the book writing guy, not the T.V. Spock). Any new dad freaks out and thinks they are going to master raising a kid, it’s just scarier when the new dad is just smart enough to be dangerous… I don’t think this is going to do much beyond entertaining a kid as much as a hanging mobile would. Making them any smarter? Hah… I seriously doubt it.

    My fiance and I were having dinner the other night at a crowded place, and this other couple had two kids that they would not control for anything. The kids were both climbing up other peoples legs, under other tables, screaming at the top of their lungs, etc. and the couple just smiled at each other as nothing was wrong, even encouraging the kids with “oh, you’re so creative!” and crap… All into some crazy way of raising kids by not trying to control the chaos.
    Me and my fiance both concluded that if that were us at that age, our parents would have quietly taken us outside without making a scene and beat us within an inch of our lives :) And we are both well rounded, hard working, contributing adults with college educations and careers. And neither of us want kids, EVER.

    1. So what exactly is the problem with his comment? His saying that you don’t need this guy dr. spock? (your parents sure didn’t) or that you’re cool with letting kids run rampant in restaurants with no sense of manners?

  4. I was inspired by the previous lightbox build to try and tinker with this but found that in the typical 8 x 8 of RGB LEDs there is a “dead-blue band” – one of the bands of leds (second row in) is missing the blue function. The Colorduino seems fine otherwise, and I’ve tried a couple of different arrays with the same result.

    Has anyone else run into this – if I recall correctly even the web pictures showing the arrays showed that discoloration at the time. What am I missing?

  5. This is a pretty cool project, but it probably would have been more effective for newborns.

    Neurological evidence suggests that for the first few month of their life, infants don’t have a clear grasp of shape and can’t make out color very well. Sharp contrasts and bright, clean colors do much more for an infant than the soft pastel-colored décor advertised for children’s rooms.

    If I ever have kids, I’m going to make their room look like the MoMA.

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