BikeBeamer Adds POV Display To Bicycle Wheels

Unless you’re living in a bicycle paradise like the Netherlands, most people will choose to add some sort of illumination to their bicycle to help drivers take note that there’s something other than a car using the road. Generally, simple flashing LEDs for both the front and the rear is a pretty good start, but it doesn’t hurt to add a few more lights to the bicycle or increase their brightness. On the other hand, if you want to add some style to your bicycle lighting system then this persistence of vision (POV) display called the BikeBeamer from [locxter] might be just the thing.

The display uses four LED strips, each housed in their own 3D printed case which are installed at 90-degree angles from one another in between the spokes of a standard bicycle wheel. An ESP32 sits at the base of one of the strips and is responsible for storing the image and directing the four displays. This is a little more complex than a standard POV display as it’s also capable of keeping up with the changing rotational speeds of the bicycle wheels when in use. The design also incorporates batteries so that no wires need to route from the bike frame to the spinning wheels.

This is an ongoing project for [locxter] as well, meaning that there are some planned upgrades even to this model that should be in the pipe for the future. Improving the efficiency of the code will hopefully allow for more complex images and even animations to be displayed in the future, and there are also some plans to improve the PCB as well with all surface-mount components. There are a few other ways to upgrade your bike’s lighting as well, and we could recommend this heads-up headlight display to get started.

A persistence-of-vision business card which displays information when shaken (not stirred).

2024 Business Card Challenge: Make Them Shake Your Handiwork

Before COVID, people traditionally sealed their initial introduction to each other with a handshake. Nowadays, that activity seems kind of questionable. But you can still give them something to shake if you build this persistence of vision (POV) business card from [chaosneon] to show your credentials in blinkenlights form.

As you might have guessed, the input comes from a tilt switch. The user simply shakes the card back and forth, and the sensor detects the direction and cadence of the shake. Cleverly, the pattern plays forward-ways on the swing, and backwards on the back stroke, which just reinforces the POV effect. Don’t worry about how slow or fast to shake it, because the timing adjusts for your speed.

The first version used individual white LEDs, hand-soldered to an ATtiny2313. Now, in the updated version which you can see in the demo video after the break, [chaosneon] is using an RGB NeoPixel strip, which only needs one data wire to connect to the microcontroller. Thanks to this, [chaosneon] was able to to downsize to an ATtiny85.

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POV Digital Clock Is The Literal Sands Of Time

Sand has been used to keep track of the passage of time since antiquity. But using sand to make a persistence of vision digital clock (English translation) is something altogether new. And it’s pretty cool, too.

The idea behind the timepiece that [Álvaro Gómez Giménez] built is pretty simple drop a tiny slug of fine sand from a hopper and light it up at just the right point in its fall. Do that rapidly enough and you can build up an image of the digits you want to display. Simple in concept, but the devil is in the details. Sand isn’t the easiest material to control, so most of the work went into designing hoppers with solenoid-controlled gates to dispense well-formed slugs of sand at just the right moment. Each digit of the clock has four of these gates in parallel, and controlling when the 16 gates open and close and when the LEDs are turned on is the work of a PIC18F4550 microcontroller.

The build has a lot of intricate parts, some 3D printed and some machined, but all very carefully crafted. We particularly like the big block of clear plastic that was milled into a mount for the main PCB; the translucent finish on the milled surfaces makes a fantastic diffuser for the 96 white LEDs. The clock actually works a lot better than we expected, with the digits easy to make out against a dark background. Check it out in the video below.

Between the noise of 16 solenoids and the sand getting everywhere, we’d imagine it wouldn’t be a lot of fun to have on a desk or nightstand, but the execution is top-notch, and an interesting and unusual concept we haven’t seen before. Sure, we’ve seen sandwriting, but that’s totally different. Continue reading “POV Digital Clock Is The Literal Sands Of Time”

Want To Learn Binary? Draw Space Invaders!

This was the week that I accidentally taught my nearly ten-year-old son binary. And I didn’t do it on purpose, I swear.

It all started innocently enough. He had a week vacation, and on one of those days, we booked him a day-course for kids at our local FabLab. It was sold as a “learn to solder” class, and the project they made was basically a MiniPOV: eight LEDs driven by a museum-piece AVR ATtiny2313. Blinking lights make a pattern in your persistence of vision as you swipe it back and forth.

The default pattern was a heart, which is nice enough. But he wanted to get his own designs in there, and of course he knows that I know how to flash the thing with new code. So I got him to solder on an ISP header and start drawing patterns on grids of graph paper while I got the toolchain working and updated some of the 2000’s-era code so it would compile.

There’s absolutely no simpler way to get your head around binary than to light up a row of LEDs, and transcribing the columns of his fresh pixel art into ones and zeros was just the motivation he needed. We converted the first couple rows into their decimal equivalents, but it was getting close to dinner time, so we cheesed out with the modern 0b00110100 format for the rest. This all happened quite organically; “unintentional parenting” is what we call it.

While we were eating dinner, I got the strangest sense of deja vu. When I was around ten or eleven, my own father told me about the custom fonts for the Okidata 24-pin printer at his lab, because he needed me out of his hair for a while, and I set out to encode all of the Hobbit runes for it. (No comment.) He must have handed me a piece of graph paper explained how it goes, and we had a working rune font by evening. That was probably how I learned about binary as well.

Want to teach someone binary? Give them a persistence of vision toy, or a dot-matrix printer.

(Art is from a much older POV project: Trakr POV — a hack of an old kids’ toy to make a long-exposure POV image. But it looks cool, and it gets the point across.)

Tiny POV Turns Right Round For Volumetric Fun

Just when you think the POV thing has run out of gas, along comes [mitxela] to liven things up. In this, he’s taken the whole persistence of vision display concept and literally spun up something very cool: a tiny volumetric “electric candle” display.

As he relates the story, the idea came upon him on a night out at the pub, which somehow led to the idea of an electric candle. Something on the scale of a tea light would fit [mitxela]’s fascination with very small and very interesting circuits, so it was off to the races. Everything needed — motor, LIR2450 coin cell, RP2040, and the vertical matrix of LEDs — fits into the footprint of the motor, which was salvaged from a CD drive. To avoid the necessity of finding or building a tiny slip-ring, he instead fixed everything to the back of the motor and attached its shaft to a Delrin baseplate.

The 8×10 array of surface-mount LEDs stands atop the RP2040 with the help of some enameled magnet wire, itself a minor bit of circuit sculpture. There’s also a 3D-printed holder for a phototransistor and IR LED, which form a sensor to trigger the display; you can see [mitxela] using a finger to turn the display off and move it back and forth. It goes without saying that these things always look better in person than they do in stills or even on video, but we still think it looks fantastic. There’s also a deep dive into generating volumetric data in the write-up, as well as an unexpected foray into the fluid dynamics calculations needed to create a realistic flame effect for the candle.

All in all, this is a fantastic if somewhat fragile project. We love the idea of putting this in a glass enclosure to make it look a little like a Nixie tube, too.

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Spinning CRT Makes A 360 Degree Audio Oscilloscope

A question for you: if the cathode ray tube had never been invented, what would an oscilloscope look like? We’re not sure ourselves, but it seems like something similar to this mechanical tachyscope display might worked, at least up to a point.

What’s ironic about this scenario is that the tachyscope [Daniel Ross] built actually uses a CRT from a defunct camcorder viewfinder as the light-up bit of what amounts to a large POV display. The CRT’s horizontal coil is disconnected while the vertical coil is attached to the output of a TEA205B audio amplifier. The CRT, its drive electronics, and the amp are mounted to a motorized plastic platter along with a wireless baby monitor, to send audio to the CRT without the need for slip rings — although a Bluetooth module appears to be used for that job in the video below.

Speaking of slip rings, you’d expect one to make an appearance here to transfer power to the platter. [Daniel] used a slip ring for his previous steampunk tachyscope, but this time out he chose a hand-wound air core transformer, with a stationary primary coil and secondary coil mounted on the platter. With a MOSFET exciter on the primary and a bridge rectifier on the secondary, he’s able to get the 12 volts needed to power everything on the platform.

Like most POV displays, this one probably looks better in person than it does in video. But it’s still pretty cool, with the audio waveforms sort of floating in midair as the CRT whizzes around. [Daniel] obviously put a lot of work into this, not least with the balancing necessary to get this running smoothly, so hats off for the effort.

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Laser Projector Built From An Old Hard Drive

Spinning hard drives are being phased out of most consumer-grade computers in favor of faster technology like solid-state drives and their various interfaces. But there’s still millions of them in circulation that will eventually get pulled from service — so what do we do with them? If you’ve got one that would otherwise be going in the garbage, they can be turned into some other interesting devices like this laser text projector.

Even the slowest drives spin at around 5000 RPM, which is perfect for this type of application. The device works by mounting twelve mirrors, each at a slightly different angle, on a drum which is spun by the drive’s motor. Bouncing a laser off of the spinning drum results in a projection of twelve horizontal lines. By rapidly switching the laser on and off depending on which mirror it’s pointing at, the length of each line can be controlled.

Thanks to persistence of vision, that allows you to show text on the surface that the laser is projected on. At speeds this high, it took [Ben] of Ben Makes Everything quite a few iterations to get it to a usable space. From sensors that were too slow to lasers not bright enough to 3D prints that were not accurate enough, he goes through the design of his build and the process in excellent detail.

After solving all of the problems including building his own constant-current laser power supply, and burning up a few laser diodes in the process, [Ben] has a laser projector capable of displaying readable text at a great distance which is also portable, running on a 12 V power supply. There are some possible areas of improvement that he notes as well, such as an unbalanced 3D printed part causing a bit of a wobble and the Arduino controller not being fast enough for more text. But it’s an impressive project nonetheless, similar to a two-mirror version we saw some time ago but with the ability to display text as well.

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