Looking to take your project to the next level in terms of functionality and appearance? A custom LCD display might be the thing that gets you there, at least compared to the dot-matrix or seven-segment displays that anyone and their uncle can buy from the usual sources for pennies. But how does one create such a thing, and what are the costs involved? As is so often the case these days, it’s simpler and cheaper than you think, and [Dave Jones] has a great primer on designing and specifying custom LCDs.
The video below is part of an ongoing series; a previous video covered the design process, turning the design into a spec, and choosing a manufacturer; another discussed the manufacturer’s design document approval and developing a test plan for the module. This one shows the testing plan in action on the insanely cheap modules – [Dave] was able to have a small run of five modules made up for only $138, which included $33 shipping. The display is for a custom power supply and has over 200 segments, including four numeric sections, a clock display, a bar graph, and custom icons for volts, amps, millijoules, and watt-hours. It’s a big piece of glass and the quality is remarkable for the price. It’s not perfect – [Dave] noted a group of segments on the same common lines that were a bit dimmer than the rest, but was able to work around it by tweaking the supply voltage a bit.
We’re amazed at how low the barrier to entry into custom electronics has become, and even if you don’t need a custom LCD, at these prices it’s tempting to order one just because you can. Of course, you can also build your own LCD display completely from scratch too.
We always find it funny when we see ads for modern LED TVs. These TVs don’t use LEDs to show the picture. They are nothing more than LCD screens with LED backlighting instead of cold cathode fluorescent lamps. [Akshaylals] had a few LCD laptop and phone panels that were defunct and decided to recycle them to get to the LEDs within.
Most panels are lit from one or two edges with a bar of LEDs. You only have to peel off some tape and plastic. If you wonder what all those plastic sheets do, see the [Engineer Guy’s] video, below.
It’s always a little sad to see a big consumer technology fail. But of course, the upside for us hacker types is that the resulting fire sale is often an excellent source for hardware that might otherwise be difficult to come by. The most recent arrival to the Island of Unwanted Consumer Tech is 3D TV. There was a brief period of time when the TV manufacturers had nearly convinced people that sitting in their living room wearing big dorky electronic glasses was a workable solution, but in the end we know how it really turned out.
Those same dorky glasses are now available for a fraction of their original price, and are ripe for hacking. [Kevin Koster] has been playing around with them, and he’s recently came up with a circuit that offers the wearer a unique view of the world. Any reflective surface will look as though it is radiating rainbows, which he admits doesn’t show up as well in still images, but looks cool enough that he thought it was worth putting the board into production in case anyone else wants in on the refraction action.
To explain how it works, we need to take a couple of steps back and look at the mechanics of the LCD panels used in these type of glasses. At the risk of oversimplification, one could say that LCDs are sort of like capacitors: when charged the crystals align themselves in such a way that the polarization of the light passing through is changed. Combined with an external polarization filter, this has the end result of turning the panel opaque. To put the crystals back in their original arrangement, and let the light pass through again, the LCD panel is shorted out in the same way you might discharge a capacitor.
What [Kevin] found was that if he slowly discharged the LCD panel rather than shorting it out completely, it would gradually fade out instead of immediately becoming transparent. His theory is that this partial polarization is what causes the rainbow effect, as the light that’s passing through to the wearers eyes is in a “twisted” state.
The Joo Janta 200 super-chromatic peril-sensitive sunglasses were developed to help people develop a relaxed attitude to danger. By following the principle of, ‘what you don’t know can’t hurt you,’ these glasses turn completely opaque at the first sign of danger. In turn, this prevents you from seeing anything that might alarm you.
Here we see the beginnings of the Joo Janta hardware empire. For his Hackaday Prize entry, [matt] has created Nope Glasses. Is that meeting running long? Is your parole officer in your face again? Just Nope right out of that with a wave of the hand.
The Nope Glasses are two LCD shutters mounted in a pair of 3D printed glasses. On the bridge of the glasses is an APDS 9960 gesture sensor that tracks a hand waving in front of the glasses. Waving your hand down in front of the glasses darkens the shutters, and waving up makes them clear again. Waving left flashes between clear and dark, and waving right alternates each shutter.
In all seriousness, there is one very interesting thing about this project: how [matt] is attaching these LCD shutters to his glasses. This was done simply by taking a picture of the front and top of his glasses, converting those to 1-bit BMPs, and importing that into OpenSCAD. This gave him a pretty good idea of the shape of his glasses, allowing him to create an ‘attachment’ for his glasses. It’s great work, and we’d really like to see more of this technique.
[pepelepoisson]’s Miroir Magique (“Magic Mirror”) is an interesting take on the smart mirror concept; it’s intended to be a playful, interactive learning tool for kids who are at an age where language and interactivity are deeply interesting to them, but whose ceaseless demands for examples of spelling and writing can be equally exhausting. Inspiration came from his own five-year-old, who can neither read nor write but nevertheless has a bottomless fascination with the writing and spelling of words, phrases, and numbers.
The magic is all in the simple interface. Magic Mirror waits for activation (a simple pass of the hand over a sensor) then shows that it is listening. Anything it hears, it then displays on the screen and reads back to the user. From an application perspective it’s fairly simple, but what’s interesting is the use of speech-to-text and text-to-speech functions not as a means to an end, but as an end in themselves. A mirror in more ways than one, it listens and repeats back, while writing out what it hears at the same time. For its intended audience of curious children fascinated by the written and spoken aspects of language, it’s part interactive toy and part learning tool.
Like most smart mirror projects the technological elements are all hidden; the screen is behind a one-way mirror, speakers are out of sight, and the only inputs are a gesture sensor and a microphone embedded into the frame. Thus equipped, the mirror can tirelessly humor even the most demanding of curious children.
[pepelepoisson] explains some of the technical aspects on the project page (English translation link here) and all the code and build details are available (in French) on the project’s GitHub repository. Embedded below is a demonstration of the Magic Mirror, first in French then switching to English.
There are plenty of cheap projection clocks available, but as [Thomas Pototschnig] points out in this project, where’s the fun in just buying something? He set out to build a cheap projection clock using a small LCD screen, a cheap LED backlight, and a cheap lens. Cheap is the order of the day here, and [Thomas] succeeded admirably, creating a design that can be made with a couple of cheap PCBs, a 3D printer and the other parts mentioned above. He does a nice job of laying out his thinking in this design, showing how he calculated the projection path and made other decisions. His project has room to grow as well: it runs from an Arduino compatible STM32 that could handle many things other than showing the time if you were inclined to expand the project further.
There’s a certain class of hardware only millennials will cherish. Those cheap ‘LCD Video Games’ from Tiger Electronics were sold in the toy aisle of your old department store. There was an MC Hammer video game. There was a Stargate video game. There was a Back To The Future video game. All of these used the same plastic enclosure, all of them had Up, Down, Left, Right, and two extra buttons, and all of them used a custom liquid crystal display. All of them were just slightly disappointing.
This is an effort from volunteers of the MAME team, who are now in the process of bringing these ‘LCD Video Games’ to the Internet Archive. Unlike other games which are just bits and bytes along with a few other relatively easily-digitized manuals and Peril Sensitive Sunglasses, preserving these games requires a complete teardown of the device. These are custom LCDs, after all. [Sean Riddle] and [hap] have been busy tearing apart these LCDs, vectorizing the segments (the game The Shadow is seen above), and preserving the art behind the LCD. It’s an immense amount of work, but the process has been refined somewhat over the years.
Some of these games, and some other earlier games featuring VFD and LED displays, are now hosted on the Internet Archive for anyone to play in a browser. The Handheld History collection joins the rest of the emulated games on the archive, with the hope they’ll be preserved for years to come.
By using our website and services, you expressly agree to the placement of our performance, functionality and advertising cookies. Learn more