It’s rare for the fields of the engineer and the mediaevalist to coincide, but there’s a clock project bringing the two fields together. The Cistercian monastic order used an intriguing number system from the 13th century onwards that could represent any four-digit number as a series of radicals expressed in the four corners of a single composite symbol, and it’s this number system that’s used by the clock to render the full range of 24 hour time on a large 5×7 LED matrix mounted on a wooden base.
Behind the scenes is an Arduino and a DS3231 real-time clock, and all the code can be found in a handy GitHub repository. There’s even a PCB from everyone’s favourite vendor of purple PCBs, The result is certainly an interesting clock that makes the break from the usual binary and Nixie timepieces with some style. It also provides an introduction to this fascinating but obscure numerical system, in the event that any of us might have missed the one other such clock that has made it to these pages.
These days, there’s all manner of addressable LEDs out there that can be easily used to produce blinky, flashy projects. However, there’s nothing stopping makers from doing things the old fashioned way, and hacking together an matrix out of raw LEDs. [Deepak Khatri] did just that with his own custom build.
Rather than rely on a PCB or other substrate to hold the matrix together, [Deepak] elected to freeform the design instead. A matrix of holes was cut in a cardboard template with the aid of graph paper. LEDs were then inserted into the holes in the requisite pattern, and their own leads soldered together to create the frame for the glasses. Additional wires that were needed were then installed, doubling as a bridge to allow the glasses to rest comfortably on the nose. Black epoxy was then used on the back side to block the light from blinding the wearer. The matrix is controlled by a pair of shift registers addressed by a microcontroller, and the display animates impressively smoothly.
it’s a fun build, and one that we suspect looks particularly impressive at night. They’d also make it easy for your friends to spot you in a dark club. We’ve seen some impressively stylish LED glasses over the years, too, dating all the way back to [macetech]’s pair from 2012. Video after the break.
Continue reading “LED Matrix Glasses Built With The Help Of Graph Paper” →
There’s plenty of obscure sports in the world. Many of them could benefit from bespoke equipment like scoring displays, but are too obscure to support commercial efforts in this regard. Radio controlled glider competitions fit into just this category. This led a man named [Mickey] to develop what he calls Mickey’s Big Timer, to aid in the running of such events.
Glider events run outdoors in full sunlight, so the system uses big bright LED matrix displays to show its timing information. The system, built around the STM32 Discovery platform, uses several of the microcontroller boards to drive several displays as well as the main controller which handles timing. It also packs in an audio system for issuing instructions to competitors. It can also display pilot names as well as instructions such as when competitors should land at the end of a heat.
Some code is available on Github for those interested in how it all works. Word around the RC forums has it that [Mickey] built several systems, some of which ended up as far afield as New Zealand where they helped run many successful glider contests over the years.
We’ve seen plenty of scoreboard projects over the years; a little portable one could be useful for adding some spice to your pickup neighbourhood games. Video after the break.
Continue reading “Mickey’s Big Timer Makes Glider Competitions Better” →
[Ramin assadollahi] has been busy rebuilding and improving an Omnibot 5402, and the last piece of hardware he wanted to upgrade was some LED matrix eyes and a high quality Raspberry Pi camera for computer vision. An Omnibot was something most technical-minded youngsters remember drooling over in the 80s, and when [ramin] bought a couple of used units online, he went straight to the workbench to give the vintage machines some upgrades. After all, the Omnibot 5402 was pretty remarkable for its time, but is capable of much more with some modern hardware. One area that needed improvement was the eyes.
The eyes on the original Omnibot could light up, but that’s about all they were capable of. The first upgrade was installing two 8×8 LED matrix displays to form what [ramin] calls Minimal Expressive Eyes (MEE), powered by a Raspberry Pi. With the help of a 3D-printed adapter and some clever layout, the LED matrix displays fit behind the eye plate, maintaining the original look while opening loads of new output possibilities.
Adding a high quality Raspberry Pi camera with wide-angle lens was a bit more challenging and required and extra long camera ribbon connector, but with the lens nestled just below the eyes, the camera has a good view and isn’t particularly noticeable when the eyes are lit up. Having already upgraded the rest of the hardware, all that remains now is software work and we can’t wait to see the results.
Two short videos of the hardware are embedded below, be sure to give them a peek. And when you’re ready for more 80s-robot-upgrading-action, check out the Hero Jr.
Continue reading “Omnibot From The 80s Gets LED Matrix Eyes, Camera” →
What did you do for Pi Day? Play with your Raspberry Pi 400? Eat some pizza or other typically round objects and recite all nine digits you’ve got memorized? That’s about where we were at this year. But not [bornach], no. [bornach] went all out and built a spigot that spews digits of Pi well past the first nine decimal places.
This clever spigot sculpture implements the spigot algorithm for generating digits of Pi one-by-one in a stream on to a chain of 8×8 matrices, and does so using a Raspberry Pi (of course). The point of the spigot algorithm is to store as few numbers as possible at any given time by reusing variables. We love the way the digits materialize on the matrix, almost as if they are ink being activated by water. Be sure to check out the build and demo video after the break.
That 10k pot on the top really does control the spigot — since the Pi has no ADC, [bornach] is using the potentiometer to charge a capacitor and using the time it takes to reach the threshold to decide whether the faucet is open or closed. There are a couple of hacks at play here, including the Popsicle-stick LED matrix bracing and the HAT [bornach] fashioned so the daisy-chained 8×8 LED modules could interface with the Pi.
We love Raspberry Pis of all eras around here, especially the darling new Pico. Diminutive as it may be, the Pico can be sliced even smaller with a hacksaw if you don’t mind losing a few GPIO pins.
Continue reading “Raspberry Pi Spigot Puts Digits Of Pi On Tap” →
Early LED displays came in all sorts of configurations. Because the LED was fairly new technology, all kinds of ideas were getting tried, and with all that work there was plenty of opportunity for hardware that didn’t make the cut to fall into obscurity. That’s exactly what happened to the Hewlett-Packard 5082-7002, a 5×7 LED matrix display with something many of its brethren didn’t: an oversized gold tub to sit in.
It doesn’t seem that these displays were ever used in any actual products, and its origins are a mystery, but the device itself was nevertheless assigned an HP part number. Beyond that, not much is known about them, but [Industrial Alchemy] reminds us that many early LED devices were poorly documented and never produced in any real quantities. They became forgotten hardware, waiting to be rediscovered.
The 5082-7002 has a oversized gold tub that makes the 5×7 LED matrix mounted inside look puny by comparison, and reading any display made from these units would be difficult because the large size of the device would mean a lot of empty space between each character or digit. But it’s definitely got a striking look to it, no doubt about that.
What’s neat is that the 5802-7002 actually showed up in a video we featured with a look back at cool old LED technology. If you would like to (briefly) see the HP 5802-7002 a bit closer under a microscope, here is a link to the video, cued to 2:19.
When we last heard from [lixielabs] he was building Nixie tube replacements out of etched acrylic and LEDs. Well he’s moved forward a few decades to bring us the Pixie, a chainable, addressable backpack for tiny LED matrix displays.
Each Pixie module is designed to host two gorgeous little Lite-On LTP-305G/HR 5×7 LED dot matrix displays, which we suspect have been impulse purchases in many a shopping cart. Along with the displays there is a small matrix controller and an ATTINY45 to expose a friendly electrical interface. Each module is designed to be mounted edge to edge and daisy chained out to 12 or more (with two displays each) for a flexible display any size you need. But to address the entire array only two control pins are required (data and clock).
[lixielabs] has done the legwork to make using those pins as easy as possible. He is careful to point out the importance of a good SDK and provides handy Arduino libraries for common microcontrollers and a reference implementation for the Raspberry Pi that should be easy to crib from to support new platforms. To go with that library support is superb documentation in the form of a datasheet (complete with dimensions and schematic!) and well stocked GitHub repo with examples and more.
To get a sense of their graphical capabilities, check out a video of 6 Pixie’s acting as a VU meter after the break. The Pixie looks like what you get when a hacker gets frustrated at reinventing LED dot matrix control for every project and decided to solve it once and for all. The design is clean, well documented, and extremely functional. We’re excited to see what comes next! Continue reading “A Tiny LED Matrix Is Better With Friends” →