LED Illusion Makes Colorful Water Drops Defy Gravity

The 60s and 70s were a great time for kitschy lighting accessories. Lava lamps, strobes, color organs, black light posters — we had it all. One particularly groovy device was an artificial rain display, where a small pump dripped mineral oil over vertical monofilament lines surrounding a small statue, with the whole thing lighted from above in dramatic fashion. If it sounds appalling, it was, and only got worse as the oil got gummy by accumulating dust and debris.

While this levitating water drops display looks somewhat similar, it has nothing to do with that greasy lamp of yore. [isaac879]’s “RGB time fountain” is actually a lot more sophisticated and pretty entrancing to watch. The time fountain idea is simple — drip water from a pump nozzle to a lower receptacle along a path that can be illuminated with flashing LEDs. Synchronizing the flashes to the PWM controlling pump speed can freeze the drops in place, or even make them appear to drip up. [isaac879] took the time fountain idea a step further by experimenting with RGB illumination, and he found that all sorts of neat effects are possible. The video below shows all the coolness, like alternating drops of different colors that look like falling — or rising — paint drops, and drops that merge together to form a new color. And behold, the mysterious antigravity cup that drips up and yet gets filled!

Allowances must be made for videos of projects that use strobes, of course. The effect of this time fountain and similar ones we’ve featured before is hard to capture, but this one still looks great to us.

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Threat Meter Gauges Risk of Creeper-Assisted Suicide

If you’ve played even just a few minutes of Minecraft, you know what a creeper is. For those not familiar with the wildly popular sandbox game, a creeper is a monster that creeps along silently until it’s close to a player, whereupon it self-destructs by exploding. Sometimes it kills the player outright, and other times the explosion blows them into lava or off a cliff, or off a cliff and then into lava. Creepers have no friends.

But now there’s a way to avoid creeper attacks, or at least get a little heads up that these green nasties are lurking about. With [John Allwine]’s creeper detector, Minecraft players can get a real-world indicator of the current in-game creeper threat. The hardware end is simple enough — it’s just a SparkFun RedBoard and a small strip of Neopixels in a laser-cut plywood case. The LEDs lie behind a piece of etched acrylic to diffuse their glow — extra points for the creeper pattern in the lens. The detector talks over USB to a Minecraft mod that [John] wrote to interface the game with the real world. The closer a creeper gets to the player, the brighter the light. — and when it flashes, watch out. See it in action in the video below, if you can stomach watching someone dig straight down. Never dig straight down.

If interfacing the Minecraft world and the real world sounds familiar, maybe it’s because we featured [John]’s SerialCraft mod a while back and admired the potential for using Minecraft as a gateway for getting kids into hardware hacking. We agree that this is a great project to work on with kids, but we may just order the parts to do it for our own Minecraft world. Creeper hate isn’t just for kids.

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Giving Stranger Things For Christmas

[rudolph] was at a loss on what to get his niece for Christmas. It turns out she’s a huge fan of Stranger Things, so the answer was obvious: make her an alphabet wall she can control!

Downsizing the scale to fit inside a document frame, [rudolph] calls their gift rudLights, and a key parameter of this build was to make it able to display any phrases sent from their niece’s Amazon Fire tablet instead of constantly displaying hard-coded phrases. To do so, it has a HC-05 Bluetooth module to forward the commands to the NeoPixel LEDs running on a 5V DC power supply.

[rudolph] enlisted the help of their son to draw up the alphabet display — printed straight onto thematically decorative wallpaper — and cut out holes in the light bulbs for the LEDs.  Next up was cut some fibre board as a firm backing to mount the electronics inside the frame and drill holes for the NeoPixels. It was a small odyssey to cut and solder all the wires to the LEDs, but once done, [rudolph] divided their rudLight alphabet into three rows and added capacitors to receive power directly.

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An IoT Christmas Tree For Your Hacker-Mas Celebrations

Smart Christmas trees may soon come to mean something more than a fashionably decorated tree. Forging ahead with this new definition, [Ayan Pahwa], with help from [Akshay Kumar], [Anshul Katta], and [Abhishek Maurya] turned their office’s Christmas Tree into an IoT device you can watch live!

As an IoT device, the tree relies on the ever-popular ESP8266 NodeMCU — activated and controlled by Alexa, as well as from a web page. The LEDs for the tree — and the offline-only tree-topper controlled by an Arduino Pro Mini — are the similarly popular Neopixels.

For those viewing online, a Raspberry Pi and camera have been attached to this project to check out the tree’s lighting. To make that possible, [Pahwa] had to enlist the use of ngrok to make the Pi’s –normally — LAN-only camera server accessible over the internet. The aforementioned web page was coded in Javascript/CSS and hosted on a server running an instance of Ubuntu 16.04.

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Touch Panels Make This Christmas Tree Interactive

The city of Liverpool, famously known as both the home port of the Titanic and the birthplace of The Beatles, also seems to have a thing for interactive public art installations. Witness this huge interactive Christmas tree that can be played by passersby.

The display in the city’s busy Williamson Square was commissioned by a municipal business group and built by [Adrian McEwen]. The idea was to adorn the 10-meter natural tree with large geometric ornaments covered with Neopixel strips. [Adrian] documents the build process in some detail, including that fact that over 170 meters of WS2812b strips went into the ornaments for the tree. While the strips themselves at IP68 rated, the connections needed when attaching them to the custom-made frames were not, and that had to be overcome with ample application of heat-shrink tubing. OctoWS2811 adapter boards were dangled about the tree to control the lights and connected together with garlands of Ethernet cables. Pressure sensors were used to control the lights when the EMI from the beefy power supplies needed to run everything proved too much for the original touch sensors. After a lot of bench testing and a few long nights working with the city crew to hang the display, passing Liverpudlians can now play the tree and enjoy the Christmas season.

Would you rather a smaller display for your own Christmas tree? This somewhat hyperactive indoor light show might be what you’re looking for.

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The Smartest Air Freshener In The Room

Many automatic air fresheners are wasteful in that they either ceaselessly spritz the room, and manual ones need to be — well — manually operated. This will not do in an era of smart products, so Instructables user [IgorF2] has put together an air freshener that does more than check if you’re around before freshening things up.

The air freshener uses a NodeMCU LoLin and an MG 995 servomotor, with a NeoPixel ring acting as a status light. Be aware — when the servo is triggered there is a significant spike in current, so be sure you aren’t powering the air freshener from a PC USB port or another device. After modeling the air freshener’s case in Fusion 360 — files available here — [IgorF2] wired the components together and mounted them inside the 3D printed case.

Hardware work completed, [IgorF2] has detailed how to set up the Arduino IDE and ESP8266 support for a first-time-user, as well as adding a few libraries to his sketch. A combination of an Adafruit.IO feed and ITTT — once again, showing the setup steps — handles how the air freshener operates: location detection, time specific spritzing, and after tapping a software button on your phone for those particularly lazy moments.

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Color changing clock uses PCB digits

There’s an old saying, that you should do everything at least twice. Once to learn how to do it, and then a second time to do it right. Perhaps [Zweben] would agree, since he wasn’t satisfied with his first Neopixel clock and proceeded to build another one. One lesson learned: soldering 180 tiny solder joints isn’t much fun. This time, [Zweben] set out to make a printed circuit board and redesign the clock to make it easier to assemble.

The clock uses multiple copies of a single circuit board. The board holds Neopixel strips in a 7-segment arrangement. Each board can also hold all of the electronics needed to drive the clock. Only the first board gets the microcontroller and other circuits.

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