LED Art Reveals Itself In Very Slow Motion

Every bit of film or video you’ve ever seen is a mind trick, an optical illusion of continuous movement based on flashing 24 to 30 slightly different images into your eyes every second. The wetware between your ears can’t deal with all that information individually, so it convinces itself that you’re seeing smooth motion.

But what if you slow down time: dial things back to one frame every 100 seconds, or every 1,000? That’s the idea behind this slow-motion LED art display called, appropriately enough, “Continuum.” It’s the work of [Louis Beaudoin] and it was inspired by the original very-slow-motion movie player and the recent update we featured. But while those players featured e-paper displays for photorealistic images, “Continuum” takes a lower-resolution approach. The display is comprised of four nine HUB75 32×32 RGB LED displays, each with a 5-mm pitch. The resulting 96×96 pixel display fits nicely within an Ikea RIBBA picture frame.

The display is driven by a Teensy 4 and [Louis]’ custom-designed SmartLED Shield that plugs directly into the HUB75s. The rear of the frame is rimmed with APA102 LED strips for an Ambilight-style effect, and the front of the display has a frosted acrylic diffuser. It’s configured to show animated GIFs at anything from 1 frame per second its original framerate to 1,000 seconds per frame times slower, the latter resulting in an image that looks static unless you revisit it sometime later. [Louis] takes full advantage of the Teensy’s processing power to smoothly transition between each pair of frames, and the whole effect is quite wonderful. The video below captures it as best it can, but we imagine this is something best seen in person.

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A Simple POV Globe Via APA102

POV builds come in all shapes and sizes, and typically rely on LEDs for their high light output and fast response time. With this in mind, [Great Scott] grabbed some LED strip off the shelf and set about whipping up a POV LED globe.

Being a spinning POV build, it’s necessary to consider how to get power to the rotating elements. [Great Scott] decided to go with a simple solution of putting a LiPo battery on the rotating assembly, which runs the LEDs and Arduino Nano at the heart of the operation. The LEDs in question are of the APA102 type, making them readily addressable and capable of a wide color gamut. It’s all spun by a simple brushed DC motor, running from a separate supply at the base of the platform.

It’s very much a hacker build, held together with duct tape and zipties. Despite this, it looks tidy when in operation, as all of the important hardware is hidden at the centre of the globe. There’s a bit of a vibration problem, but [Great Scott] reckons this can be fixed with some frame modifications.

We’d love to see the build run some more advanced operations, like a representation of the Earth, or some kind of sun clock. If you’re interested in learning more about POV displays, we’ve got the primer you need. Video after the break.

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Kinetic Lamp Sheds Light On Scientific Principles

This thing right here might be the coolest desk toy since Newton’s Cradle. It’s [Stephen Co]’s latest installment in a line of mesmerizing, zodiac-themed art lamps that started with the water-dancing Aquarius.  All at once, it demonstrates standing waves, persistence of vision, and the stroboscopic effect. And the best part? You can stick your finger in it.

This intriguing lamp is designed to illustrate Pisces, that mythological pair of fish bound by string that represent Aphrodite and her son Eros’ escape from the clutches of Typhon. Here’s what is happening: two 5V DC motors, one running in reverse, are rotating a string at high speeds. The strobing LEDs turn the string into an array of optical illusions depending on the strobing rate, which is controlled with a potentiometer. A second pot sweeps through eleven preset patterns that vary the colors and visual effect. And of course, poking the string will cause interesting interruptions.

The stroboscopic effect hinges on the choice of LED. Those old standby 2812s don’t have a high enough max refresh rate, so [Stephen] sprung for APA102Cs, aka DotStars. Everything is controlled with an Arduino Nano clone. [Stephen] has an active Kickstarter campaign going for Pisces, and one of the rewards is the code and STL files. On the IO page for Pisces, [Stephen] walks us through the cost vs. consumer pricing breakdown.

We love all kinds of lamps around here, from the super-useful to the super-animated.

A Multi-Layered Spin On Persistence Of Vision

By taking advantage of persistence in human vision, we can use modest bits of hardware to create an illusion of a far larger display. We’ve featured many POV projects here, but they are almost always an exploration in two dimensions. [Jamal-Ra-Davis] extends that into the third dimension with his Volumetric POV Display.

Having already built a 6x6x6 LED cube, [Jamal] wanted to make it bigger, but was not a fan of the amount of work it would take to grow the size of a three-dimensional array. To sidestep the exponential increase in effort required, he switched to using persistence of vision by spinning the light source and thereby multiplying its effect.

The current version has six arms stacked vertically, each of which presents eight individually addressable APA102 LEDs. When spinning, those 48 LEDs create a 3D display with an effective resolution of 60x8x6.

We saw an earlier iteration of this project a little over a year ago at Bay Area Maker Faire 2018. (A demo video from that evening can be found below.) It was set aside for a while but has now returned to active development as an entry to Hackaday Prize 2019. [Jamal-Ra-Davis] would like to evolve his prototype into something that can be sold as a kit, and all information has been made public so others can build upon this work.

We’ve seen two-dimensional spinning POV LED display in a toy top, and we’ve also seen some POV projects taking steps into the third dimension. We like where this trend is going.

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Flashing LEDs With MIDI, Note By Note

Musical keyboards that light up the correct notes to play have long been touted as a quick and easy way to learn how to play. They’re also fun to look at. [Shootingmaker] has developed a similar concept, with a keyboard lookalike, covered in LEDs (Youtube video, embedded below).

The project consists of a PCB, in which the design of the mask imitates the white and black notes of a piano. This makes it look like a keyboard, but as far as we can tell, it doesn’t actually work as one. All the notes are fitted with APA102 addressable LEDs, under the control of a Teensy 3.2 board, operating in USB-MIDI mode. The Teensy receives MIDI data, and then directs the individual LEDs to flash in different colors based on which MIDI channel fired the note.

It’s a fun way to visualise MIDI data, and we think it would be even more fun combined with a basic synthesis engine to make some noise. We suspect it wouldn’t be too hard to integrate the project into an existing instrument, either. Software is available on Github for those interested in replicating the project. You can use MIDI to control neon lights, too.
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Gyro Controlled RGB Blinky Ball Will Light Up Your Life

[James Bruton], from the XRobots YouTube channel is known for his multipart robot and cosplay builds. Occasionally, though, he creates a one-off build. Recently, he created a video showing how to build a LED ball that changes color depending on its movement.

The project is built around a series of 3D printed “arms” around a hollow core, each loaded with a strip of APA102 RGB LEDs. An Arduino Mega reads orientation data from an MPU6050 and changes the color of the LEDs based on that input. Two buttons attached to the Mega modify the way that the LEDs change color. The Mega, MPU6050, battery and power circuitry are mounted in the middle of the ball. The DotStar strips are stuck to the outside of the curved arms and the wiring goes from one end of the DotStar strip, up through the middle column of the ball to the top of the next arm. This means more complicated wiring but allows for easier programming of the LEDs.

Unlike [James’] other projects, this one is a quickie, but it works as a great introduction to programming DotStar LEDs with an Arduino, as well as using an accelerometer and gyro chip. The code and the CAD is up on Github if you want to create your own. [James] has had a few of his projects on the site before; check out his Open Dog project, but there’s also another blinky ball project as well.

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When Are Dumb LEDs The Smart Choice?

A couple years ago I got into making electronic conferences badges by building a device for DEFCON 25 shaped like a dragonfly. Like all badges the most important design factor was quite literally how flashy it was, and two years ago I delivered on that with ten RGB LEDs. At the time I planned to hand-assemble each and every of the 105 badges at my kitchen table. Given those constraints, and a desire for electrical and programmatic simplicity, I landed on using APA102s (DotStar’s in Adafruit parlance) in the common 5050 sized package. They were easy to place, easy to design with electrically, simple to control, and friendly to a human pick-n-place machine. Though by the end of the production run I had discovered a few problems, the APA102s were a success.

This year I made a new and improved version of the dragonfly, but applying my lessons learned led me to choose a very different LED architecture than 2017. I swapped out the smart LEDs for dumb ones.

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