LED Art Hack Chat

Join us on Wednesday, July 1 at noon Pacific for the LED Art Hack Chat with Aaron Oppenheimer!

From the first time humans crawled into a cave with a bit of charcoal to sketch scenes from the world around them, artists have been searching for new media and new ways to express themselves. Natural products ruled for thousands of years, with pigments stolen or crafted from nature as well as wood, ivory, bone, and stone for carving. Time and experience guided our ancestors to new and better formulations and different materials, to the point that what qualifies as art and what we’d normally think of as technology have, in many cases, blended into one, with the artist often engineering projects of mammoth proportions and breathtaking beauty.

Aaron Oppenheimer co-founded color+light, a company that specializes in large-scale custom art installations for companies like Google, Nike, and Nissan. One of their projects, the “Oddwood Tree”, is displayed alongside other gigantic art pieces at Area15 on the Las Vegas strip. His most recent project, fluora, is a digital houseplant, with addressable LEDs in the leaves that can be controlled by a smartphone app or respond to stimuli in the environment.

Aaron will join us on the Hack Chat to discuss the LED as artistic medium. Join us as we learn what it takes to make enormous art that’s strong enough to interact with yet responsive enough to be engaging.

join-hack-chatOur Hack Chats are live community events in the Hackaday.io Hack Chat group messaging. This week we’ll be sitting down on Wednesday, July 1 at 12:00 PM Pacific time. If time zones have you down, we have a handy time zone converter.

Click that speech bubble to the right, and you’ll be taken directly to the Hack Chat group on Hackaday.io. You don’t have to wait until Wednesday; join whenever you want and you can see what the community is talking about.

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Flexible PCB Earrings Put The Art In Art Deco

Earrings have been a hackers’ target for electronic attachment for quite a while, but combining the needed components into a package small enough to wear in that finicky location is quite a challenge. If [Sawaiz Syed]’s Art Deco Earrings are anything to go by, ear computers have a bright future ahead of them!

This is a project unusually well described by its name. It is in fact an earring, with art deco styling. But that sells it way too short. This sliver of a flex circuit board is double sided to host an ATtiny, accelerometer, LDO, and eight 2020 formfactor controller-integrated LEDs. Of course it’s motion sensitive, reacting to the wearer’s movement via LED pattern. [Sawaiz] makes reference to wearing it while dancing, and we can’t help but imagine an entire ballroom all aglow with tiny points of LED light.

The Art Deco Earrings are also set apart by the thoroughness of their documentation (have we mentioned how much we love detailed documentation?). [Sawaiz] not only drops the source in your lap, but the README in the Github repo linked at the top walks the reader through each component of the design in detail. Plus the PCBA render is so complete it includes a model of the wire loop to fit through the wearer’s ear; how cool is that? The single piece that’s still in progress is the battery. The earring itself hosts an LDO, so all that is required is stashing a battery somewhere discrete, perhaps in the user’s hair? We’re looking forward to seeing what [Sawaiz] works out.

For the full effect, check out the gif of an assembled unit in action after the break.

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Come On Baby Light My Fire Button

While the Nintendo GameCube stood deep in the shadows of the PS2 in its day, its controller remains a popular target for all sorts of modifications today — many of them involving LEDs, thanks to a translucent bottom and button option. As an avid player of the Super Smash Bros. series, [goomysmash] is of course an owner of the very same controller, which motivated him to write GoomWave, a “versatile and hackable LED library”. In an impressively detailed Instructable, he shows how to modify your own controller in two different ways to make use of the library for yourself.

Initially inspired by the Shinewave mod that lights up RGB LEDs in colors associated to pre-defined moves in Smash Bros, [goomysmash] aimed to improve on it and add more versatility from the very beginning. Its latest iteration comes in a simplified ABXY-buttons-only variety using an ATtiny85, and a full-blown all-button variety using an Arduino Nano. Both of them are powered straight from the controller board, and have different modes where they either react to controller interactions, or are just custom lights. A brief showcasing of all the different modes can be seen in the video after the break, and there a few more details also in an older version’s video, also embedded below.

Mesmerizing LED-blinking aside, we just have to admire the diligence and cleanliness [goomysmash] put into the wiring and fitting everything inside the controller. But in case light mods aren’t your thing or you’re looking for other GameCube controller modifications, how about adding Bluetooth?

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NeoPixel Matrix Simulation Lets You Virtually Groove To The Lights

You are stuck at home quarantined and you want to do some Arduino projects. The problem is you don’t have all the cool devices you want to use. Sure, you can order them, but the stores are slow shipping things that aren’t essential these days. If you want to get a headstart while you are waiting for the postman, check out Wokwi’s Playground. For example, you can write code to drive a virtual NeoPixel 16×16 matrix. There’s even example code to get you started.

There are quite a few other choices in the playground including Charlieplexed LEDs, a keypad, and an LCD. There are also challenges. For example, in the traffic light challenge, you are given code that uses a task scheduler library to implement a traffic light. You have to add a turn signal to the code.

In addition to LEDs in various configurations, the site has some serial bus components, an LCD, a keypad, and a NeoPixel strip. There are also a few tools including an EasyEDA to KiCad converter and a way to share sourcecode similar to Pastebin.

Of course, simulations only get you so far, but the site is a fun way to play with some different I/O devices. It would be very nice if you could compose for the different components together, but you could work your code in sections, if necessary. You can do similar things with TinkerCad circuits. If you want to install software, there’s a simulator for you, too.

Keep The Family At Bay While Working From Home With This WiFi Do Not Disturb Dongle

Those who have been suddenly introduced to the wonderful world of working from home over the last couple of weeks may have experienced a bit of culture shock. Even with today’s open floorplan workspaces and less-formal expectations, work isn’t home. That’s especially true with young children in the house, who’ll probably respond to seeing mommy or daddy working from home much differently than [Bob] from accounting would at the office.

To smooth out the rough spots of transitioning to a full-time work-from-home setup, [Brian Lough] threw together this web-enabled “do not disturb” beacon for his office door. The original idea was to simply provide a red light and a green light to let the rest of the family know when [Brian] would be in a meeting, but in an example of scope creep that turned out to be useful, [Mrs. Lough] rewrote the spec to include a button on the family-facing side so that she could alert him that his presence is requested.

[Brian] went through a couple of prototype using both an ESP32 and an ESP8266. We were rooting for the ESP32, which [Brian] was leveraging for its built-in capacitive touch input. That would have eliminated a physical button, but alas, the ESP8266 made it into the final build, along with lots and lots of Blu-Tack. The video below details the build and the code, and features an adorable Irish lesson as a bonus.

Yes, a simple text message would probably have satisfied the specs, but where’s the sport in that? Then again, as [Brian] points out, this build seemed oddly familiar for a good reason.

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Handwashing Timer Makes Sure The Suds Stay On Long Enough

“Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star”? How we wonder why you’d resort to singing a ditty to time your handwashing when you can use your social isolation time to build a touch-free electronic handwash timer that the kids — and you — might actually use.

Over the last few months, pretty much everyone on the planet has been thrust into strange, new, and oftentimes scary practices to limit the spread of the SARS-CoV-2virus and the disease it causes, COVID-19. Judging by the number of people we’ve seen leaving public restrooms without a visit to the washbasin before the outbreak began — and sadly all too often since — we collectively have a lot of work to do in tightening up our handwashing regimens. Time on target and plenty of friction are the keys to that, and [Denis Hennessy]’s “WashTimer” aims to at least help you out with the former. His build is as simple as can be: an Arduino driving an LED matrix when a proximity sensor fires. Wave your dirty paws in front of the unit as you start to scrub up, and the display goes through a nicely animated 20-second countdown, at which time it’s safe to rinse off.

[Denis] purposely made this design as simple and as customizable as possible. Perhaps you’ve got a Neopixel ring lying about rather than the LED matrix, or maybe an ultrasonic sensor would work better for you. Be creative and take this design where it needs to go to suit your needs. We can’t stress enough that handwashing is your number one defense; if you don’t need to moisturize your hands at least three times a day, you’re probably not washing often or long enough. And 20 seconds is way longer than you think it is without a prompt.

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Lightbulb Glows When You Have That Eureka Moment

We’re not entirely sure where the lightbulb-idea concept came from, but it’s a cultural touchstone rapidly becoming outmoded by the prevalence of compact fluorescent and LED lighting. Despite this, [Alex Glow] and [Moheeb Zara] whipped up the Prometheus Lamp to let you experience it for real.

The build starts with a glass lightbulb souvenir from the Neon Museum in Las Vegas. Inside, a TinyLily Mini microcontroller board is tasked with talking to an accelerometer to detect movement. When the lightbulb is picked up and oriented in the vertical axis, it lights up a NeoPixel LED, glowing to indicate that you’ve just had a remarkable idea! It’s all powered off a single CR2032 coin cell, thanks to the low voltage requirements of the modern TinyLily components.

It’s a build that serves as a good way to learn about accelerometers, and it makes a fun desk toy, too. We’ve seen some other projects go by the name “Prometheus”, too — like a wrist mounted flame thrower. How’s that for variety?