Massive LED Display Makes Use Of Reused Soda Bottles


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.

Or how about playing a giant game of Snake?

And if there’s any Bronies in the crowd…

[Thanks Stu]

15 thoughts on “Massive LED Display Makes Use Of Reused Soda Bottles

  1. The xanthine mix in mate is different from other caffeine sources, that might explain some of it although it’s probably mostly a flavor thing. For a buzz that will keep you going all night, try a yerba mate / coca leaf tea combo :) gotta love them alkaloids…throw in some passion fruit leaves for some sweet sweet MAOI action.

    1. I’m pretty sure all the coca leaf extract you’re ever gonna come across legally is the stuff the government have already had labs extract all the stuff that’s worth extracting from. Is it the leftovers from making medical cocaine? Or just in demand for flavouring? It’s a little-known fact Coca Cola buy a certain amount of it every now and then. Maybe that’s the secret ingredient, but then I know it so it’s not much of a secret.

      I prefer coca extract the other way round. Just about as useless for mental concentration as caffeine is, only not so bad for the heart and vascular system.

      Caffeine really is an awful, awful drug. They’d do less harm taking it out of “energy drinks” and putting amphetamine in instead.

      There’s also Buckfast, a caffeinated wine, responsibly for about half the mental health cases in Scotland. The problem with adding caffeine to alcohol is, you still get massively drunk, but without the sedation and lack of energy. So people end up doing stupid things and bleeding a lot.

      1. Stuff I’m talking about, I source in Peru, at the grocery store. it’s just dried coca leaves, not an “extract”. Coca cola buys quite a bit of the same leaves and extracts flavoring from them in a highly-regulated facility. They used to use a “whole” extract that included some cocaine, but that went away early in the 20th century.

        As for caffeine, it may be a faustian bargain, but long-term detrimental effects are nebulous at best. If you think caffeine is “useless”, then I’ll err on the side of generosity and assume you have access to more potent alternatives…

  2. The article is missing some informations.

    The pictures with the yellow crates have been made on 30c3 in hamburg. This was a temporary installation, using club-mate crates and bottles.

    The videos with the black crates are videos of the current (less temporary) installation in c-base, berlin. It contains the exact same LEDs, Drivers and the same T22, but the crates are black and the Bottles are Flora Power, a different kind of mate.

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