Portable ESP32 RGB Lasershow Has All The Trimmings

Perhaps there was a time when fancy laser effects were beyond those without the largest of bank accounts, but today they can be created surprisingly easily. [Corebb] shows us how with a neat unit using an off the shelf RGB laser module and mirror module, driven by a ESP32 with software designed to make it as easy as possible to use.

The video below the break is in Chinese so you’ll have to turn on the subtitles if you’re an Anglophone, and it takes us through the whole process. It’s mounted in an SLA 3D printed enclosure which neatly holds all the parts. The ESP32 module drives a couple of DACs which in turn drive the galvanometer motors through a pair of amplifiers.

Then the software allows all sorts of custom displays for your creative expression, including uploading quick sketches over WiFi. Beyond pretty patterns we see it mounted on a bicycle for a head-up display of speed and navigation info. Even if it does fall off and break at one point we can see that could be an extremely useful accessory.

All the code can be found in a GitHub repository should you wish to try for yourself. Meanwhile we’ve covered a lot of laser projector projects here in the past, including most recently this one using stepper motors in place of galvanometers.

47 thoughts on “Portable ESP32 RGB Lasershow Has All The Trimmings

  1. FYI: not sure about China but where I live the law is clear. Bicycle must have either yellow or selective white front light. Anything else is a felony of driving a vehicle non certified for road use. In case you cause a collision or accident you’ll have to cover all the expenses that isurance company demands and that can go up to 500,000 zlotys (about 0,1kk euros).

    1. Not here in Canada. For whatever reason Bicycles can drive anywhere they please… roadways, sidewalks, pedestrian pathways, etc and at the same time ignore roadway rules (going through red lights, driving the wrong way on a one way street, etc). Unfortunately, those within the Municipal Gov are big bicycle advocates and so rules that every other vehicle must comply with, are not enforced or even considered for Bicycles. The result is a lot of animosity towards bicycles by those that have to abide by the rules.

      1. Some rules make sense for lumbering 1500kg machines going at 80km/h that require only a toe’s press on a pedal to accelerate, but not for a 15kg frame going at barely 25km/h, having much less potential energy and capacity for destruction.
        More bicycles benefits car drivers, because it reduces the number of vehicles that cause slow traffic and traffic jams. Take a look at Amsterdam, and then imagine all of those cyclists being in a car. The city would be 100% gridlocked.
        That does not mean there should be no rules at all – just that rules should be different, for vehicles with different speed, mass, and effort needed to get in motion.
        It’s no different for “invalid carriages” – they have a very low mass, a max speed of 45km/h and very small dimensions. For that reason, they’re allowed on cycle paths and are allowed to park on sidewalks. Not a single car driver complains about that.

  2. Hackaday…
    What the fork?!
    I don’t care how useful, innovative, or interesting a hack/project/build is, you CANNOT praise them for doing something so stupid and potentially deadly…
    This is a PRIME example of a project that you should be condemning based on the imagery included with it.

    Is the projector cool? Yeah.

    But they photographed it in use on a bicycle…

    They literally show themselves pointing a laser, at eye level, where cars go, from a bicycle.

    Someone is going to DIE because they didn’t fully think this through. Why are you are giving them an internet high-five instead of calling them on their negligence?

    Your article should IMMEDIATELY make people think “Wow. How could they be SO stupid?!?” and only later get to the “but the implementation is clever.”

      1. As someone who has been lasered in the eyes by a moron playing in their bedroom window, lost earnings and had to pay for expensive hospital visits while the damage was investigated, I can say *your* comment makes me think your view is from an immature perspective with no understanding of the life-changing impacts that *are* caused by idiots with access to lasers. Maybe take a look in the mirror and ask yourself if your desires outweigh other people’s right to not be injured.

      1. I think OP is trying to suggest that it will blind a driver, and that the driver will then plow into the cyclist killing them, or maybe some pedestrian. not that the laser would kill the driver directly. The solution of course is separate and dedicated biking infra so that these types of lights to avoid getting hit by a driver in the first place are not needed.

        1. 2/3 of the way through the video he pops balloons with the laser. The power output required to do that exceeds safe levels for being pointed directly into any eyeball.

          This is not safe as it is a potential blinding hazard. I don’t want to be blind or have spots burned into my retina for the rest of my life thank you very much.

      2. Ever notice at those concerts that the beams are pointed up at the ceiling, or at a surface where there are NO PEOPLE? We go to great lengths to make sure that lasers do not cause eye damage. If you havent gotten any from going to a concert or nightclub, that means we did our job properly. There are divergence lenses, positional monitoring, dwell time monitoring, variable power level “safe zone” control systems… all there so you can safely get “scanned” by the beam. This video is *not* an example of safe usage by any stretch.

        1. Laser Safety is No Accident. Commercially, there are courses and professions for Laser Safety Officers. Laser safety is one of the things that DO NOT extrapolate well from “common knowledge”. At a minimum, please go study the laser classifications. Wikipedia “Laser Safety” is a reasonable place to start; it’s fairly complete.

    1. Deadly is a bit excessive (ok, it’s possible to blind a driver and have them hit someone before they stop) but it’s ridiculously unlikely.

      However, I agree with your general sentiment – there’s a good chance this isn’t eye-safe to bystanders, and risking other people’s vision is extremely irresponsible.

      1. >>JMC says: November 21, 2022 at 5:42 pm Deadly is a bit excessive
        >>(ok, it’s possible to blind a driver and have them hit someone before
        >>they stop) but it’s ridiculously unlikely.

        “Deadly” is not excessive.

        I am extremely deaf. If I go blind I *will* commit suicide.

        Before that I will attempt to find a way of removing such a perpetrator from the gene pool.

  3. Awesome! Thanks for featuring it Hackaday! To all the safety nannies here. Come on!!! Seriously! Think before you overreact. Anyone who has the skills/persistence to build something like this is going to have enough common sense to use responsibly. Before you say OMG!! The guy who built it used it responsibly while riding his bike with a LASER!!! Nothing he did was crazy dangerous.
    Yeah, there might be a few wackos out there but what’s stopping them from buying a “military power” laser online?

    1. >>Chris Barth says: November 21, 2022 at 7:16 pm
      >>Anyone who has the skills/persistence to build something like
      >>this is going to have enough common sense to use responsibly.

      So you think that someone that can write a bit of software understands laser/eye safety?

      Common sense isn’t common; there are a lot of idiots out there. Only the best win Darwin awards.

      >>Nothing he did was crazy dangerous.

      What’s your evidence for that?

      What happens when something doesn’t behave as expected? Bike falls over and bean is projected upwards into someone’s eye? Scanning stops, so spot rests on a retina.

      Amateurs think about how things work. Professionals think ab out how things fail

      >>Yeah, there might be a few wackos out there but what’s stopping them
      >>from buying a “military power” laser online?


      Some do, and blind helicopter pilots.

      1. Please show evidence of any heli pilot ever being “blinded” by these “military power” lasers. Catching a glint of one from many hundreds of feet away to what probably amounts to no more than milliseconds of exposure to a very miniscule amount of energy is not being blinded. You do understand the divergent nature of even the best lasers, let alone inexpensive handheld units don’t you? It isn’t simply about power. Read up on laser beam divergence, the inverse square law and do some simple math. You may find that those heli pilots, and you, are full of it. It obviously isn’t safe to do but serves as little more than a distraction to pilots and the probability of causing even the slightest amount of eye damage is practically zero. Especially after it’s further attenuated by the windscreen. They don’t understand the behavior of a laser beam any more than you do, so when it happens they may freak out which will be what would cause an accident, not lack of visibility due to eye damage. The hysteria surrounding this is what will eventually cause a related accident due to a pilot freaking out. They should rather be educated on the lack of danger as to not cause a freak out. It’s practically nothing for them to be concerned about if it happens.

        1. And what happens to your ability to see after you have a high power light blast you in the face… Even if the damage isn’t ever permanent the blinding absolutely can happen.

          That isn’t the case anyway, as its absolutely possible to cause permanent harm even at huge ranges with no dwell time – just because some laser, especially the cheaper diode lasers are rather low power to start with and highly divergent (at least for ‘lasers’) doesn’t mean ALL lasers, or even all man portable lasers are somehow safe to point at people and no harm can ever be done by them…

          And as the times idiots with lasers are more likely to be able to actually hit the helicopter is when it is damn close to the ground even if its nothing more than dazzling first time, its effectively blinding them to an area they really really need to be paying attention to, as you can’t risk becoming properly (even if its only temporary) blinded while in an aircraft that by its very nature is not stable, and very very unlikely to have any pilot aids – that would cause a crash every time.

          Plus that windscreen may well not be in any way helpful – its often a curved glass bit being hit from an angle it was never designed to be illuminated from, so it might even be acting as a rather nice focusing lens…

    2. This!

      I’d worry more about every idiot being able to buy a strong laser pointer or these laser “engravers” for 100 bucks.
      In some countries idiots can even buy guns that cause more than just eye damage.

      1. Yes, I worry, but I also do something about it.

        Every time I come across a post discussing laser engravers, I suggest that they instead buy a unit with an enclosure.

        Every time I see someone talking about purchasing an “amazing 1 watt handheld laser pointer!” I point out that is instant permanent eye damage, and link to the standard laser safety classifications (i.e. laser pointers are class IIIa and <5mW).

        Everytime I see someone think about buying a gun, I make sure they've done their homework (classes in handling, safe storage, communication and training of all household members).

        Saying nothing makes me culpable. So I'm saying something: Educate yourselves before using dangerous equipment (yes, even your utility knife is dangerous). Sometimes education is simple and easy (cut away from yourself), sometimes it's harder (study this laser classification chart).

    3. YouTube videos involving potentially dangerous topics (lasers, high voltage, chemicals, radioactivity, etc) RARELY teach or mention the dangers of what they are posting. The viral fractal wood burning using microwave oven transformers is a recent example where people died while reproducing a YouTube video project, due to ignorance of the dangers. This laser project fits into the category of videos showing something cool without teaching or advising of the safety considerations.

      1. I think that the cheap open-box laser engravers taking over the market are far more dangerous than this project or any projects inspired by it. There are countless videos describing the laser cutters with zero or very few mentions of actual laser safety. The laser engravers usually come with some sort of laser safety goggles, and I have seen many of them tested and they often do not even protect you from the wavelengths of the light from the laser cutter. This means you can do your research and even try to be safe as well as pay money and feel like you are doing the right thing but still blind yourself. This projector project is complicated enough that I would argue that anyone who has the ability to replicate this project would spend enough time to know a reasonable amount about laser safety. Furthermore, most laser galvo projectors use even more powerful lasers than this because the beam ends up being spread out over a large area due to the scanning. I am honestly very impressed by the polish of this project, and the author clearly knows what he is doing.

  4. Given that his device uses several lasers and therefore different wavelengths, will a pair of conventional protective glasses be effective in protecting oneself? Wouldn’t it be necessary to have a different glass for each wavelength?

  5. Safety people: you really only keyed on to a very small part of the video and project. He just strapped it on his bike for fun because he could, and it looks more like an afterthought than anything else.

    In the outtake at the end, he breaks the bit that screws into the tripod, says “oh crap, now I have to go home and glue it together”. Predictably, this is where the unit comes loose and that’s what causes its eventual demise. But the bike gimmick is a red herring anyway.

    In reality, this is a video about a cool, portable, DIY RGB WiFi laser projector with awesome software support. That’s pretty fantastic, IMO.

    I want to know how he aligned the beams. B/c if that’s straight out of the printer, I’m very impressed.

    But yeah, as always: plan ahead about how you’re going to terminate your beam if it’s a laser show, and make sure there’s nothing alive or reflective downrange.

    1. This is exactly the way I interpreted the video. The implementation using a inexpensive ESP32 to control galvos and modulate the lasers is really cool, especially since its opensourced. Yes, lasers pose a danger to eyesight but this project is the wrong place to go on a safety rant, its just not warrented.

    2. I watched the whole thing, and despised many of the demonstrated “use cases”.

      Demonstrated: Balloon popping prove a small spot size & laser power make this unit hazardous.

      Demonstrated: Dancing with the light beams scanning across your head. This is not safe, especially given the close range and lack of diffusion/defocusing (see balloon popping). Even if it was below your neck, it could hit a shiny object like your watch and reflect up into your eye.

      Demonstrated: Projecting onto plants – what’s behind that bush? Projecting onto wall-like objects – Some of the scenes showed the light escaping past the edge to who-knows-what.

      Can you do this? Yes. Should you? Only after studying https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Laser_safety . How quickly can you be blinded? Faster than you can blink (0.25 sec). That’s the danger here. One slip and you could damage your or someone else’s sight for life. Unlike cutting off your finger, there’s no way to repair the retinal damage.

  6. Author: I am suprised that this article is so popular. For those concerned about safety issues of the bike footage. That’s is shot on the bike road, not the public big road. And the laser is not so much powerful, it is only 300mw. With the high speed of the laser galvo, you will not get bind bcs of that. Actually it is not so bright looks like the footage. It is shot on 10pm, actually it is so dark. And I use high ISO and f1.8 to shot that. And the main purpose is not for that. Everything is safe, and no one got hurted by that.

    1. A 300mW Class 3B laser is dangerous and must be used with safety gear – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Laser_safety#Class_3B . In your hand-held demonstrations, there is no guarantee that the beam can’t flash across someone’s eye. I’ve worked with lasers up to 100W; safety is no joke.

      A scanned beam is no guarantee of safety; you can cause eye damage in as little as 1 nanosecond. Even a 5 mW laser pointer can cause permanent eye damage, but it takes seconds. The demonstration of popping a balloon is proof enough that the laser has a small spot size that makes it a significant danger. Laser safety is one of the things that DO NOT extrapolate well from “common knowledge”.

      I appreciate the work you put into the galvos and analog drive. That is a nice project. I am taking issue with the ignorance of laser safety.

    2. I don’t care what the author does with their eyes. Darwin rules.

      But doing something in a public space (a bike road) endangers a random person such as my mother or daughter. That’s irresponsible.

      Telling other people how to do it without very explicit safety warnings is doubly irresponsible.

      “Look mum, I fired my gun when cycling, and nobody was hurt”

      “Watch my video of me running into the road without looking. Didn’t harm me”

  7. I did not find them too. Many ‘holes’ in this project especially on hardware aide. I am pretty sure more than half of this is fake or at least approximative.
    Most footage do not show the box and the result at the same time, except the bike sequence with red markings which are really not nice and most likely the only real thing produced by what has been built by this guy.

  8. Just a note about the safety aspect of uncontained laser beams… The laser warning icons designed in the 60s are, to this day, a very accurate and definitive symbol depicting why laser light is hazardous. The image of a beam striking an object and splintering into many smaller beams… And so herein lies the point, when lasers strike objects, any object, the reflective light is in the form of smaller laser beams. There can be considerable diffusion and mixing resulting in a quasi-ambient non-coherent radiation, but nonetheless there will always be redirected laser beams with their coherent photonic potential.
    Just saying.

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