Conductive Origami Lights Up Your Life

It’s taken mobile phone developers years to develop electric circuits and displays that can fold. Finally he first few have come to market — with mixed reviews and questionable utility at best. For all that R&D, there are a lot of other cases where folding circuitry might have been more useful than it seems these handsets have been. One of those is conductive origami, which in this case allows for light fixtures that turn themselves on as they are unfolded.

This conductive origami is produced by [Yael Akirav] using a 3D printer to deposit the conductive material onto fabric. From there, the light fixture can be unfolded into its final position and turned on. This isn’t just a decorative curiosity though, the design of the folding material actually incorporates the ability to turn itself on as it is unfolded. One device brightens itself as it is slowly unfolded.

This is an interesting take on foldable circuits in general, especially with some of the functionality incorporated into the physical shape of the material. We’ve seen conductive elements embroidered into fabric before, but this takes it to a new level. Surely there are more applications for a device like this that we will see in the future as well.

Thanks to [t42] for the tip!

Great Artificial Daylight Via Broken TVs

[DIY Perks] has long been a fan of lights that accurately mimic real daylight. Often choosing high-quality LEDs for his projects, lately he’s taken a different tack – using broken televisions to produce attractive home lighting solutions.

The hack involves removing the backlight from the damaged television or monitor. These have a powerful white light inside, but the real key is that they also features a Fresnel lens. This helps the backlight appear very similar to a real skylight, due to the way it scatters light around the room.

Due to the difficulty of driving most LED and CCFL backlights, the project strips the original lighting out and replaces it with a set of high-CRI LED strips readily available off eBay. These are easily driven from 12 volts and give a white light more similar to actual daylight compared to most backlights. With the LEDs in place, the monitor’s original diffusers and Fresnel lens are put back in place, and the light is finished off with an aluminium frame.

Fitted to an angled ceiling, the light really does look as if actual sunlight is streaming through a window on a rainy day. It’s a pleasant effect that does a great job of lighting a room, and we suspect it would be excellent for general video work, too. [DIY Perks] is no stranger to a good studio light build, after all. Video after the break.

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Old CDs Create A Haunting Rainbow Vortex

The 1960s were, in Western culture, a time of great social and political upheaval, and the dawning of the psychedelia subculture. This resulted in an art style consisting of bright colours in wild, shifting designs. [Afraser-kruck] has built a device capable of generating beautiful rainbow light patterns, which he calls Mesmer-Eyes.

Unnerving, to say the least.

The device uses two CDs, stripped of their reflective coating. This leaves the plastic layer behind, which appears to be acting as a circular diffraction grating. By passing light from a flashlight through a CD, a dazzling rainbow vortex is created, and the effect is even further improved by adding a second disc. The patterns can be moved and shifted by changing the distance between the discs themselves, as well as the flashlight. This is achieved through the use of a sled that slides on PVC pipes, holding each individual element.

It’s a build of a kind we haven’t seen before, and is put to good use as a creepy Halloween decoration, imitating the famous Cheshire Cat. It’s one we can’t wait to tackle ourselves, and we wonder how difficult it would be to turn it into a projection, or a larger scale design.

Creepy eyes remain a Halloween staple; we’ve featured them before. Video after the break.

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A Work Light For Hacker Events

If you’ve ever attended a hacker camp, you’ll know the problem of a field of tents lit only by the glow of laser illumination through the haze and set to the distant thump of electronic dance music. You need to complete that project, but the sun’s gone down and you didn’t have space in your pack to bring a floodlight.

In Days of Yore you might have stuck a flickering candle in an empty Club-Mate bottle and carried on, but this is the 21st century. [Jan-Henrik] has the solution for you, and instead of a candle his Club-Mate bottle is topped a stack of LED-adorned PCBs with a lithium-ion battery providing a high intensity downlight. It’s more than just a simple light though, it features variable brightness and colour temperature through touch controls on the top surface, as well as the ability to charge extra 18650 cells. At its heart is an STM32F334 microcontroller with a nifty use of its onboard timer to drive a boost converter, and power input is via USB-C.

We first saw an early take on this project providing illumination for a bit of after-dark Hacky Racer fettling at last year’s EMF 2018 hacker camp, since then it has seen some revisions. It’s all open-source so you can give it a go yourself if you like it.

 

A Simple Programmable Light Controller

Everything’s internet connected these days, garage doors, baby monitors, and the kitchen sink are all hooked up. There are benefits to having everything online, but also several pitfalls. Maintaining security on a home network is an ongoing job, made more difficult by the number of devices that must be kept track of. Sometimes all the hassle isn’t worth it, and you just want a non-connected solution. [Dilshan] found himself in just that camp, and built a simple programmable light controller that doesn’t connect to the Internet. 

At the core of the project is an ATMEGA8 microcontroller, which is cheap, readily available, and can do the job. It’s combined with a DS1307 real time clock IC to keep track of time. The circuit is designed for 24V power, to allow it to be run from the same supply as the LED light modules it is designed to control.

The design was initially prototyped with through-hole parts on the breadboard, with the final design being built with surface mount parts on a custom PCB. Light is courtesy of a 7W warm white LED module. 3 push buttons and a 4-digit, 7-segment display act as the user interface, with an LDR to allow the light to also react to its surroundings.

It’s a build that goes against current trends, lacking WiFi connectivity, Twitter functionality, or cloud-based logging. It goes to show that the right solution isn’t always putting everything online. Sometimes the old methods are enough to do the job, and do it well.

Of course, if you’re still itching for a packet data fix, here’s how to blink an LED over the Internet.

Cyborg, Or Leafy Sensor Array?

Some plants react quickly enough for our senses to notice, such as a Venus flytrap or mimosa pudica. Most of the time, we need time-lapse photography at a minimum to notice while more exotic sensors can measure things like microscopic pores opening and closing. As with any sensor reading, those measurements can be turned into action through a little trick we call automation. [Harpreet Sareen] and [Pattie Maes] at MIT brought these two ideas together in a way which we haven’t seen before where a plant has taken the driver’s seat in a project called Elowan. Details are sparse but the concept is easy enough to grasp.

We are not sure if this qualifies as a full-fledged cyborg or if this is a case of a robot using biological sensors. Maybe it all depends on which angle you present this mixture of plant and machine. Perhaps it is truly is the symbiotic relationship that the project claims it to be. The robot would not receive any instructions without the plant and the plant would receive sub-optimal light without the robot. What other ways could plants be integrated into robotics to make it a bona fide cyborg?

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Shining A Light On Hearing Loss

When auditory cells are modified to receive light, do you see sound, or hear light? To some trained gerbils at University Medical Center Göttingen, Germany under the care of [Tobias Moser], the question is moot. The gerbils were instructed to move to a different part of their cage when administrators played a sound, and when cochlear lights were activated on their modified cells, the gerbils obeyed their conditioning and went where they were supposed to go.

In the linked article, there is software which allows you to simulate what it is like to hear through a cochlear implant, or you can check out the video below the break which is not related to the article. Either way, improvements to the technology are welcome, and according to [Tobias]: “Optical stimulation may be the breakthrough to increase frequency resolution, and continue improving the cochlear implant”. The first cochlear implant was installed in 1964 so it has long history and a solid future.

This is not the only method for improving cochlear implants, and some don’t require any modified cells, but [Tobias] explained his reasoning. “I essentially took the harder route with optogenetics because it has a mechanism I understand,” and if that does not sound like so many hackers who reach for the tools they are familiar with, we don’t know what does. Revel in your Arduinos, 555 timers, transistors, or optogenetically modified cells, and know that your choice of tool is as powerful as the wielder.

Optogenetics could become a hot ticket at bio maker spaces. We have talked about optogenetics in lab rodents before, but it also finds purchase in zebrafish and roundworm.

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