The Best Conference Badge Of 2017 Is A WiFi Lawn

It’s February, conference season hasn’t even started yet, and already there’s a winner of the best electronic badge of the year. For this year’s MAGfest, [CNLohr] and friends distributed 2,000 ESP8266-based swag badges.

These custom #badgelife badges aren’t. Apparently, MAGFest wouldn’t allow [CNLohr] to call these devices ‘badges’. Instead, these are ‘swadges’, a combination of swag and badges.  On board theses swadges is an ESP-12, a quartet of RGB LEDs, and buttons for up, down, left, right, A, B, Select, and Start. The swadge is powered by two AA batteries (sourced from Costco of all places), and by all accounts the badge was a complete success.

[CNLohr] is one of the great ESP8266 experts out there, and one of the design goals of this badge is to have all of these swadges communicate over raw WiFi frames. This turned out to be a great idea – using normal WiFi infrastructure with two thousand badges saturated the spectrum. The control system for was simply three badges, one per WiFi channel, that tells all the badges to change the color of the LEDs.

The swadge was a complete success, but with a few hundred blinkey glowey WiFi devices, you know [CNLohr] is going to come up with something cool. This time, he turned his lawn into a rave. About 175 swadges were laid out on the lawn, all controlled by a single controller swadge. The color of the LEDs on each swadge in the yard changes in response to the WiFi signal strength. By swinging the controller badge around his head, [CNLohr] turned his yard into a disco floor of swirling blinkieness. It looks awesome, although it might not visualize WiFi signals as well as some of [CNLohr]’s other ESP hacks.

This is a fantastic build and was well received by everyone at MAGFest. Be sure to check out the videos below, they truly show off the capabilities of this really cool piece of wearable hardware.

14 thoughts on “The Best Conference Badge Of 2017 Is A WiFi Lawn

      1. If your Swadge was within range of the MAGFest wi-fi network, inputting Up, Up, Down, Down, Left, Right, Left, Right, B, A, it would then enter into the “Color War” mode. Wherein pressing any of the directional buttons would change the color of the LEDs at the top, along with everyone else’s swagde that was connected to the network.

    1. I was at the event/have one of these badges. What would happen is it would actually engage a “color swarm” game. Basically, each button became a different color input. When you’d hit a button, you’d push a new color onto the 4 color stack. Then, everyone else’s badge would update to reflect the same color change. At least, that’s how I recall it working.

    2. There are/were also two hidden modes. I don’t remember the exact ways to access them, but both involved holding a button while popping the battery in and out. I believe if you held left and power-cycled, it engaged a “flash light mode” where the LEDs were max brightness white. If you held select (I think) and popped the battery, it engaged a packet accepting mode where you could select a channel to accept a sent packet from. This was demonstrated at the “Badge panel” at MAGFest, where we were all told to engage this mode, then we were sent a packet that engaged a wifi strength mode where the badge LED colors varied from green to red depending on how good the wifi signal was, so we got a dynamic color map of the wifi signal in the room. Was a really cool demo.

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