Teardown: AppLights Personalized Projection

Listen, it hurts to hear, but somebody needs to say it. It’s over, OK? You’ve got to admit it and move on. Sure, you could get away with it for a week or two in January, but now it’s just getting weird. No matter how hard you fight it, the facts are the facts: the holidays are over. It’s time to pack up all those lights and decorations before the neighbors really start talking.

Fun Fact: It can’t actually do this

But don’t worry, because there’s an upside. Retailers are now gearing up for their next big selling season, which means right now clearance racks the world over are likely to be playing home to holiday lights and decor. That wouldn’t have been very interesting to the average hacker or maker a few years ago, after all, there’s only so much you can do with a string of twinkle lights. But today, holiday decorations are dripping with the sort of high-tech features you’d expect from gadgets that are actively aiming to be obsolete within the next ten months or so.

Case in point, the “AppLights Personalized Projection” which I found sulking around the clearance section of the Home Depot a couple weeks back. This device advertises the ability to project multi-color custom messages and animations on your wall, and is configured over Bluetooth with a companion application on your Android or iOS device. At a minimum we can assume the device must contain a fairly powerful RGB LED, an LCD to shine the light through, and some sort of Bluetooth-compatible microcontroller. For $20 USD, I thought it was worth taking a shot on.

Around this time last year, the regular Hackaday reader may recall I did a teardown for a Christmas laser projector. Inside we found red, green, and blue lasers of considerable power, as well as all the optics and support hardware to get them running. It was a veritable laser playground for $14. Let’s see if the AppLights projector turns out to be a similar electronic cornucopia, and whether or not we’ve got a new Hackaday Holiday tradition on our hands.

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Blink An LED On The Internet Of Things

Blinking an LED is generally considered the hardware equivalent of the classic “Hello World” project. It’s a quick and simple test to show that you’ve got the basics worked out, and a launching point for bigger and better things. So why should it be any different in this glorious new Internet of Things era?

The “WiFi HDD LED” created by [Limbo] is essentially just that, a status LED that can be triggered remotely thanks to the WiFi capability of the ever-popular ESP8266. Don’t think there’s much use for a wireless LED that blinks when your computer’s hard drive is thrashing around? Maybe not, but it’s definitely worth checking out if you’re looking for a good way to get your feet wet in the world of ESP hacking.

On the hardware side, this is exactly what you’d expect: an LED hanging off the digital pin of an ESP8266 module. If you go with the bare ESP-01 like [Limbo], things are somewhat more complex due to the need for a voltage regulator, but if you’re using one of the more common ESP development boards then there’s nothing else you need to add. Really, as a proof of concept you could even use the built-in LED on those boards.

As you might imagine, this project is more about the software than the hardware. The code on both sides of the equation has been released as open source for your hacking pleasure, and is more capable than you’d probably expect. The LED is actually an extension of a system activity monitor that [Limbo] had previously developed and includes a binding function to make sure you’re talking to the right blinking ESP. It’s probably overkill for many purposes, but it’s a good example of how to do more robust UDP connections than we’re used to seeing.

This project is one of many that prove there’s more than one way to accomplish a particular goal, and that there’s something to be learned from even the most eccentric of hacks.

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Glowtie is Perfect For Those Fancy Dress Raves

Are you bored of your traditional bow tie? Do you wish it had RGB LEDs, WiFi, and a web interface that you could access from your smartphone? If you’re like us at Hackaday…maybe not. But that hasn’t stopped [Stephen Hawes] from creating the Glowtie, an admittedly very slick piece of open source electronic neckwear that you can build yourself or even purchase as an assembled unit. Truly we’re living in the future.

Evolution of the Glowtie

While we’re hardly experts on fashion around these parts (please see the “About” page for evidence), we can absolutely appreciate the amount of time and effort [Stephen] has put into its design. Especially considering his decision to release the hardware and software as open source while still putting the device up on Kickstarter. We seen far too many Kickstarters promising to open the source up after they get the money, so we’re always glad to see a project that’s willing to put everything out there from the start.

For the hardware, [Stephen] has gone with the ever popular ESP8266 module and an array of WS2812B LEDs around the edge of the PCB. There’s also a tiny power switch on the bottom, and a USB port for charging the two 1S 300mAh lipo batteries on the backside of the Glowtie. The 3D printed rear panel gives the board some support, and features an integrated bracket that allows it to clip onto the top button of your shirt. For those that aren’t necessarily a fan of the bare PCB look or blinding people with exposed LEDs, there’s a cloth panel that covers the front of the Glowtie to not only diffuse the light but make it look a bit more like a real tie.

To control the Glowtie, the user just needs to connect their smartphone to the device’s WiFi access point and use the web-based interface. The user can change the color and brightness of the LEDs, as well as select from different pre-loaded flashing and fading patterns. The end result, especially with the cloth diffuser, really does look gorgeous. Even if this isn’t the kind of thing you’d wear on a daily basis, we have no doubt that you’ll be getting plenty of attention every time you clip it on.

It should be said that [Stephen] is no stranger to wearable technology. We’ve previously covered his mildly terrifying wrist mounted flamethrower, so if he managed to build that without blowing himself up, we imagine building a light up tie should be a piece of cake in comparison.

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Get Twelve Charlieplexed PWM Outputs From an ATtiny85

Most of us are aware that charlieplexing can drive a large number of LEDs from a relatively small number of I/O pins, but [David Johnson-Davies] demonstrates adding another dimension to that method to create individually controlled PWM outputs as well. His ATtiny85 has twelve LEDs, each with individually-set brightness levels, and uses only four of the five I/O pins on the device.

Each LED can be assigned a brightness between 0 (fully off) and 63 (fully on). The PWM is done by using one of the timers in the ATtiny85 to generate a periodic interrupt, and the ISR for the interrupt takes care of setting the necessary ratios of on and off times for each charlieplexed output. The result? Twelve flicker-free LEDs with individually addressable brightness levels, using an 8-pin microcontroller and just a few passive components on a tiny breadboard. There’s even one I/O pin left on the ATtiny85, for accepting commands or reading a sensor.

[David] really wrings a lot out of the ATtiny series of microcontrollers with his compact projects, like his Tiny Function Generator (which recently got an update.) He also demonstrated that while charlieplexing is usually used with LEDs, charlieplexing can be used with switches just as easily.

Hexagonal Lamp Is A Stylish Application Of Plywood

Lamps are useful things, and can be a great way to add style and lighting options to a room. Where overhead lights have to provide enough illumination for all manner of tasks, a subtle table lamp can add a nice moody glow to a room when it’s time to kick back and relax. Oftentimes, a stylish lamp can be let down by having a run of the mill plastic switch hanging off the power lead, but it doesn’t always have to be the case. [Emiel] designed this hexagonal lamp with a hidden switch, which works remarkably well.

[Emiel] starts by laying out hexagonal paper templates on plywood and perspex sheet. The plywood is cut on the bandsaw, while the interior cuts on the perspex are made on a scroll saw to avoid unsightly cut entry lines. The outer half of the lamp slides up and down on a pair of steel rods. Springs hold the outer half up, and it can be pressed down to activate a switch inside to turn the lamp on and off.

The build has a clean and attractive aesthetic, with the LEDs hidden inside, glowing through the perspex slices built into the body. It looks like something you’d find in the rooms at the Tranquility Base Hotel & Casino. If regular lamps aren’t enough for you, however, you could always consider building something interactive. Video after the break.

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Infinity Icosahedron Is Difficult To Contemplate Even Looking Right At It

Cubes and pyramids are wonderful primitive three-dimensional objects, but everyone knows that the real mystical power is in icosahedrons. Yes, the twenty-sided polyhedron does more than just ruin your saving throws in tabletop RPGs – it can also glow and look shiny in your loungeroom at home.

[janth]’s build relies on semitransparent acrylic mirrors for the infinity effect, lasercut into triangles to form the faces of the icosahedron. The frame is built out of 3D printed rails which slot on to the acrylic mirrors, and also hold the LED strips. [janth] chose high-density strips with 144 LEDs per meter for a more consistent effect, and added frosted acrylic diffusers to all the strips for a clean look with less hotspots from the individual LEDs.

An ESP32 runs the show, and the whole assembly is epoxied together for strength. The final effect is very future disco, and it’s probably against medical advice to stare at it for more than 5 minutes at a time.

The infinity effect is a popular one, and we’ve seen a beautiful cube build by [Heliox] in recent times. Of course, if you do manage to build an actual portal through time and space, and not just a lamp that looks like one, be sure to send us a tip. Video after the break.

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COB LED Teardown

[Big Clive] picked up some chip-on-board (COB) LEDs meant for hydroponics that were very unusual and set out to examine them on video. Despite damaging the board almost right away, he managed to do some testing on these arrays and you can see the results in the video below. He also compares it to older LED modules.

The 144 LEDs produce a lot of light. In addition to powering the device up, he also looks at the construction of the LEDs under a magnification, comparing the older style that used tiny bond wires to make connections versus the new version soldered on the board directly.

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