Lighting Up Your Spectrespecs

In the ever-popular world of Harry Potter, a pair of Spectrespecs are useful if you’re hunting for wrackspurts and nargles. While we’ve never spotted either of these creatures ourselves, if you’d like to go out on a hunt, [Laveréna]’s build might be for you.

To start with, you’ll need the frames for the Spectrespecs. [Laveréna] elected to source hers commercially, but you can 3D print them or even craft them by hand if you so desire. Then, a TinyLily microcontroller board is installed, with its small size allowing it to be tucked neatly out of sight in the top of the sunglasses. Two NeoPixels are then installed, with the TinyLily programmed to flash the LEDs in the requisite blue and red colors for easy identification of supernatural creatures.

Tools such as cheap microcontrollers designed for wearables and low-cost addressable LEDs are making advanced cosplay designs easier than ever. Whipping up custom blinkables no longer requires knowledge of advanced multiplexing techniques and how to properly drive high-power LEDs. Of course, LED wearables do still get properly advanced – like this skin-based 7-segment display. If you’ve got a glowable project of your own that you’re dying to share, be sure to let us know!

LED Flame Illuminates The Beauty Of Noise

Have you ever wrapped up a nice blinky project only to be disappointed by the predictability of the light or the color patterns? When it came to lighting this LED candle, so was [fungus amungus]. But there’s a better way, and it involves noise.

Perlin noise was created in the early 80s by Ken Perlin while he was working on the movie Tron. Frustrated by the current state of computer graphics and too limited on space to use images, he devised an algorithm for generating natural-looking textures. Basically, you generate a bunch of numbers between 0 and 1, then assign values to those numbers, such as a range of greyscale values from black (0) to white (1), or the values from the color wheel. The result is much prettier than random numbers because the neighboring values for any given number aren’t radically different. You get nice randomness with hardly any overhead.

[fungus amungus] is using the FastLED’s noise function to generate the numbers, but there’s a whole lot more going on here. As he explains in the excellent video after the break, if you want to animate these values, you just add another dimension of them. Although [fungus amungus] is using a Trinket Pro and a NeoPixel ring, we think a simplified version could be done with a Circuit Playground Express using the built-in LEDs.

If you want to do it the hard way, start by making your own NeoPixel ring.

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Don’t Hang Christmas Lights, Embed Them

Finding it hard to get into the holiday spirit this year? Maybe you just need a timely project to light up the evenings until Santa (or Krampus) pays your house a visit. Whoever visits this season, delight or distract them with a 3D printed tree featuring embedded RGB LEDs.

[MakeTVee] printed this tree in four stages to make it a little bit easier to wire everything up. Each stage has six LEDs embedded in a 5mm transparent layer at the bottom. The top stage has a second color change to make a tree topper that holds a single LED. The color change feature in PrusaSlicer 2.0 made it easy to pause the print, insert the wired-up LEDs, and resume seamlessly in green filament. There’s a hidden base of what appears to be appropriately delicious cinnamon filament that holds the Trinket M0 and the power switch.

This lil’ tree looks great, especially considering how fiddly and nerve-wracking the wiring and assembly must have been. [MakeTVee] made it easier on himself with a printed wiring stencil that holds the LEDs in their star formation while he solders them up with magnet wire (a solid choice in our book). He thoughtfully included that stencil in the files which are up on the Prusa site. Dim the lights, grab a hot beverage, and check out [MakeTVee]’s build video after the break.

If you want a holiday hack that people can play with, invite them to paint your addressable tree.

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RGB Lamp With Micro:Bit Powered Gesture Control

The Micro:bit is a very neat piece of hardware that, frankly, we don’t see enough of. Which made us all the more interested when [Manoj Nathwani] wrote in to tell us about the gorgeous 3D printed RGB LED lamp he created that uses the BBC-endorsed microcontroller to perform basic gesture detection. Purists will likely point out that an Arduino Pro Mini is tagging along to handle interfacing with the LEDs, but it’s still a good example of how quick you can get a project up and running with MicroPython on the Micro:bit.

[Manoj] used eight NeoPixel Sticks, a NeoPixel Ring, and a few scraps of perfboard to construct a three dimensional “bulb” to fill the void inside the printed diffuser. They’re chained together so all the elements appear as a single addressable strip, which made the rest of the project a bit easier to implement. It might not be pretty, but it gets the job done and it’s not like you’ll ever see it again once installed in the lamp anyway.

The Micro:bit and Arduino co-pilot live in the base of the lamp, and the single USB cable to provide power (and the ability to update the device’s firmware) is run out the bottom to give the whole thing a clean and professional look. For those wondering why the Arduino has tagged along, [Manoj] says he couldn’t get the NeoPixel libraries to play nicely with the Micro:bit so he’s using the Arduino essentially as a mediator.

Right now the only gesture that’s detected on the Micro:bit is a simple shake, which tells the Arduino to toggle the light show on and off. But in the future, [Manoj] plans to implement more complex gestures which will trigger different animations. As he explains in the blog post, gesture recognition with the Micro:bit is incredibly simple, so it should be easy to come up with a bunch of unique ways to interface with the lamp.

Color changing LED lamps are a favorite project of hackers, and we’ve seen examples built with everything from glass and copper to laser-cut pieces of wood and veneer. While you might prefer to skip the gesture control for an ESP8266 and UDP, we think this project is another strong entry into this popular genre.

Individual Neopixels Make Up This Lightsaber’s Blade

The lightsaber is an iconic weapon from the Star Wars franchise, designed in all sorts of shapes and colors. Several fan-made versions have been built as well, quite a few of which use the almost ubiquitous neopixel. [Tirenoth] decided to build his first lightsaber using a series of neopixels, but decided on a unique build method.

Instead of the usual strip of neopixels, [Tirenoth] chose to use a bunch of neopixels in the 5mm LED form-factor. [Tirenoth] soldered each LED’s 5v pins and GND pins to the same pins on the next, rotating each LED 180 degrees, building a tower of pixels. The data in and out pins are soldered to the next (and previous) LED as well. This allows the series of LEDs to be a bit more stable physically, and allows them to be stacked close together, one on top of the other.

To control the neopixels, a Proffieboard is used, an open-source lightsaber controller. The Proffieboard uses an STM32 microcontroller and allows you to hook up LEDs or neopixels as well as a speaker. Its open-source software allows the animation of the pixels and the playing of sounds. It’s designed specifically for lightsaber builds and is programmed via the Arduino IDE.

[Tirenoth] has some nice pictures of the build in process and, of course some nice pics of the final result. He suggests that the blade would be the first to break in battle, though. There’s been a few lightsaber builds over the years, like this lightsaber with rave mode, or this lightsaber made with real lasers.

via Reddit.

Mademoiselle Pinball Table Gets Rock ‘n Roll Makeover

Once upon a time, there was a music venue/artist collective/effects pedal company that helped redefine industry in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. That place was called Death By Audio. In 2014, it suffered a death by gentrification when Vice Media bought the building that DBA had worked so hard to transform. From the ashes rose the Death By Audio Arcade, which showcases DIY pinball cabinets made by indie artists.

Their most recent creation is called A Place To Bury Strangers (APTBS). It’s built on a 1959 Gottlieb Mademoiselle table and themed around a local noise/shoegaze band of the same name that was deeply connected to Death By Audio. According to [Mark Kleeb], this table is an homage to APTBS’s whiz-bang pinball-like performance style of total sensory overload. Hardly a sense is spared when playing this table, which features strobe lights, black lights, video and audio clips of APTBS, and a fog machine. Yeah.

[Mark] picked up this project from a friend, who had already cut some wires and started hacking on it. Nearly every bit of the table’s guts had to be upgraded with OEM parts or else replaced entirely. Now there’s a Teensy running the bumpers, and another Teensy on the switches. An Arduino drives the NeoPixel strips that light up the playfield, and a second Uno displays the score on those sweet VFD tubes. All four micros are tied together with Python and a Raspi 3.

If you’re anywhere near NYC, you can play the glow-in-the-dark ball yourself on July 15th at Le Poisson Rouge. If not, don’t flip—just nudge that break to see her in action. Did we mention there’s a strobe light? Consider yourself warned.

Want to get into DIY pinball on a smaller scale? Build yourself a sandbox and start playing.

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CalClock Keeps You Tied To The Mast

Now that most of what we do revolves around our phones and/or the internet, it’s nearly impossible to take a short break from work to check the ol’ calendar without being lured by the sirens on the shore of social media. Well, [samvanhook] was tired of being drawn in when all he really needs is a vague idea of what’s coming up for him in the next 12 hours. Enter the CalClock.

Thanks to color-coded segments, [sam] can tell at a glance if he has something coming up soon in Google Calendar, or if he can dive back into work. When nothing is scheduled, the segments are simply unlit.

We love the mid-century minimal look and craftsmanship of CalClock. This beauty runs on a Raspi Zero W, which fetches the 411 through the gooCal API and lights up the appropriate NeoPixels arrayed behind standard clock movement-driven hands.  [sam] could have diffused the NeoPixels with a single sheet of acrylic, but he went the extra mile to route and sand little acrylic ice cubes for all 24 segments.

Want more control of your day? [sam] took the time to upload both the clock face model and the code so you can. If you need help just getting started each day, check out this calendar-polling Raspi alarm clock.