Low-Cost Display Saved By RP2040

Anyone looking for components for electronics projects, especially robotics, microcontrollers, and IoT devices, has likely heard of Waveshare. They are additionally well-known suppliers of low-cost displays with a wide range of resolutions, sizes, and capabilities, but as [Dmitry Grinberg] found, they’re not all winners. He thought the price on this 2.8-inch display might outweigh its poor design and lack of documentation, and documented his process of bringing it up to a much higher standard with a custom driver for it.

The display is a 320×240 full-color LCD which also has a touchscreen function, but out-of-the-box only provides documentation for sending data to it manually. This makes it slow and, as [Dmitry] puts it, “pure insanity”. His ultimate solution after much poking and prodding was to bit-bang an SPI bus using GPIO on an RP2040 but even this wasn’t as straightforward as it should have been because there are a bunch of other peripherals, like an SD card, which share the bus. Additionally, an interrupt is needed to handle the touchscreen since its default touch system is borderline useless as well, but after everything was neatly stitched together he has a much faster and more versatile driver for this display and is able to fully take advantage of its low price.

For anyone else attracted to the low price of these displays, at least the grunt work is done now if a usable driver is needed to get them up and running. And, if you were curious as to what [Dmitry] is going to use this for, he’s been slowly building up a PalmOS port on hardware he’s assembling himself, and this screen is the perfect size and supports a touch interface. We’ll keep up with that project as it progresses, and for some of [Dmitry]’s other wizardry with esoteric displays make sure to see what he’s done with some inexpensive e-ink displays as well.

Mice Play In VR

Virtual Reality always seemed like a technology just out of reach, much like nuclear fusion, the flying car, or Linux on the desktop. It seems to be gaining steam in the last five years or so, though, with successful video games from a number of companies as well as plenty of other virtual reality adjacent technology that seems to be picking up steam as well like augmented reality. Another sign that this technology might be here to stay is this virtual reality headset made for mice. Continue reading “Mice Play In VR”

Pushing Crates In 8-bit Color

Moore’s law isn’t strictly holding anymore, but it is still true that most computing systems are at least trending towards lower cost over time, if not also slightly smaller size. This means wider access to less expensive hardware, even if that hardware is still an 8-bit microcontroller. While some move on to more powerful platforms as a result of this trend, there are others still fighting to push these platforms to the edge. [lcamtuf] has been working to this end, stretching a small AVR microcontroller to not only play a classic video game, but to display it on a color display. Continue reading “Pushing Crates In 8-bit Color”

Digital Replica Of Antique Weather Monitoring Instrument

Computers and digital sensors have allowed for the collection and aggregation of data barely possible to imagine to anyone in the instrumentation scene even sixty years ago. Before that, things like weather stations, seismometers, level sensors, and basically any other way of gathering real data about the world would have been performed with an analog device recording the information on some sort of spool of paper. This was much more tedious but the one thing going for these types of devices was their aesthetic. [mircemk] is back to bring some of that design inspiration to a digital barometric display.

The barometer is based around an Arduino Arduino Nano and a relatively large I2C display to display the captured data. It also uses a BME 280 pressure sensor board, but the technical details of this project are not the focal point here. Instead, [mircemk] has put his effort in recreating the old analog barographs, which display barometric data on a spool of paper over time, on the I2C display. As the device measures atmospheric pressure, it adds a bar to the graph, displaying the data over time much as the old analog device would have.

We’ve discussed plenty of times around here that old analog meters and instrumentation like this recreation of a VU meter are an excellent way of getting a more antique aesthetic than is typically offered by digital replacements. Adding in a little bit of style to a project like this can go a long way, or you can simply restore the original antique instead.

LED Displays May Get Vertical Integration

If you zoom into the screen you are reading this on, you’d see an extremely fine pattern of red, green, and blue emitters, probably LEDs of some kind. This somewhat limits the resolution you can obtain since you have to cram three LEDs into each screen pixel. Engineers at MIT, however, want to do it differently. By growing thin LED films and sandwiching them together, they can produce 4-micron-wide LEDs that produce the full range of color, with each color part of a vertical stack of LEDs.

To put things in perspective, a standard TV LED is at least 200 microns across. Mini LEDs measure upwards of 100 microns, and micro LEDs are the smallest of all. A key factor for displays is the pitch — the distance from the center of one pixel to the center of the next. For example, the 44mm version of the Apple Watch has a pitch of around 77 microns. A Samsung Galaxy 10 is just over 46 microns.  This is important because it sets the minimum size for a high-resolution screen, especially if you are building large screens (such as when you build custom video walls (see the video below for more about that).

Continue reading “LED Displays May Get Vertical Integration”

DIY Macro Keyboard Wood Be Nice

Editing video tends to involve a lot of keyboard shortcuts, and while this might be fine for the occasional edit, those who regularly deal with video often reach for a macro pad to streamline their workflow. There are plenty of macro keyboards available specifically meant to meet the needs of those who edit a lot of video, but if you want something tailored for your personal workflow you may want to design your own keyboard like this wooden macro pad from [SS4H].

The keyboard itself is built around an STM32 microcontroller, which gives it plenty of power to drive and read the keyboard matrix. It also handles an encoder that is typically included on macro keyboards for video editing, but rather than using a potentiometer-type encoder this one uses a magnetic rotary encoder for accuracy and reliability. There’s a display built into the keyboard as well with its own on-board microcontroller that needs to be programmed separately, but with everything assembled it looks like a professional offering.

[SS4H] built a prototype using 3D printed parts, but for the final version he created one with a wooden case and laser etched keys to add a bit of uniqueness to the build. He also open-sourced all of the PCB schematics and other files needed to recreate this build so anyone can make it if they’d like. It’s not the only macro keyboard we’ve seen before, either, so if you’re looking for something even more esoteric take a look at this keyboard designed to be operated by foot.

Continue reading “DIY Macro Keyboard Wood Be Nice”

Illuminated smart curtain in front of a window, beside a Christmas tree

Smart LED Curtain Brings Sprites To Your Windows

Mobile interface for LED smart curtain display
A mobile interface is a nice touch

Anybody who has ever seen a video wall (and who hasn’t?) will be familiar with the idea of making large-scale illuminated images from individual coloured lights. But how many of us have gone the extra mile and fitted such a display in our own homes? [vcch] has done just that with his Deluxe Smart Curtain that can be controlled with a phone or laptop.

The display itself is made up of a series of Neopixel strips, hung in vertical lines in front of the window.  There is a wide gap between each strip, lending a ghostly translucent look to the images and allowing the primary purpose of the window to remain intact.

The brains of the system are hosted on a low-cost M5stack atom ESP32 device. The data lines for the LEDs are wired in a zig-zag up and down pattern from left to right, which the driver software maps to the rectangular images. However, the 5V power is applied to the strips in parallel to avoid voltage drops along the chain.

If you’d like to build your own smart curtain, Arduino sketch files and PHP for the mobile interface are included on the project page. Be sure to check out the brief video of what the neighbors will enjoy at night after the break.

If video walls are your kind of thing, then how about this one that uses Ping Pong Balls as diffusers? Continue reading “Smart LED Curtain Brings Sprites To Your Windows”