The color of things

Fun with LEDs, microcontrollers, software, and other random things...


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High-res photo of Strangelove and Aurora at night. (By Shira Brettman)

High-res photo of Strangelove and Aurora at night. (By Shira Brettman)

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The Aurora LED wall goes to Burning Man

It’s belated, but I wanted to write about another incarnation of the Aurora LED wall since this one made it up to Burning Man this past year. The project came about when my friend Liam suggested how nice it would be if we could bring Aurora up to the playa; I’d been itching to build a successor to the first version, and I couldn’t say no. This time, however, it would be mobile! Mwahaha… We planned on mounting it to our camp’s art car (aptly named Strangelove) so it could piggyback its way around the desert. What we pulled off below (with further help from our friend Christina at thinklovecreate.com) was done in typical burning man style: in a friend’s warehouse and at the last minute. I didn’t make it up to the playa last year to experience it firsthand but Liam kept a watchful eye on it and said it went off without a hitch.

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The Aurora LED Wall and the art car Strangelove at night. (Photo by Shira Brettman)


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More write-ups about the LED wall

Here are some more postings I’ve found about the LED wall. I’m glad it comes across that I wanted to build a dynamic and interactive piece of wall art. Coming from a science and software background, it’s interesting to hear oneself described as an artist …

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The Aurora LED Wall video

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Build details for the Aurora LED wall

Below is a somewhat detailed description of how the Aurora LED wall was built. (The high level description is here.) There are too many steps to go through each part of the build in depth, so I’ve kept it fairly high level. 

 

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The Aurora LED wall: a 4 foot by 8 foot iPad-controlled, music-responsive canvas of color

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            This project began as a need to fill an empty 6’ by 12’ wall in my living room above the couch. Since I have an weakness for flashing things, I thought, “what better to fill that space than lots of lights making colorful patterns?” Thus the idea for the Aurora LED wall was born. This is my largest and most involved project to-date (involving soldering, woodworking, and microcontroller as well as PC programming), so I wasn’t sure how it would turn out; but it ended up coming out much better than I expected. If you like the vids/pics/description here or have some thoughts on improvements to the wall, please let me know in the comments below!

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SoftwareTone: an Arduino library for creating square wave tones on any and all pins

For syneseizure, we needed to create tones on many different speakers at once, perhaps even different tones (although this didn’t go into the final prototype). Arduino hardware pulse width modulation only works on 6 pins and even then, using all 6 has some limitations. Since we wanted a 4x3 speaker array, we needed to use as many Arduino pins as possible. I couldn’t find any available libraries to do this so I ended up writing one. It uses one timer callback with the TimerOne library to allow frequencies on pins 2-13 of up to 10kHz. I just posted it to github in the off-chance that it might be useful to someone trying to replicate the syneseizure mask or perhaps for another random project requiring lots of buzzing. If you end up using it, let me know!

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Science Hack Day San Francisco 2011

For Science Hack Day SF 2011, I worked with a group of other folks on a crazy idea that won the SHD people’s choice award. As a result we got these cute little medals with “Science” engraved on them. 

Our project was to develop a machine that would “cross” your senses so that, for example, sight would go to smell, touch to hearing, etc. We decided on sight to touch for various reasons I can’t remember. One motivating question was: Is it possible to recognize objects and maneuver around by “feeling” visual information?

The input was video simplified into a 4x3 monochrome pixel array, where each video pixel was sent to a given “vibrator pixel” consisting of a small speaker. The vibrations of the speaker would transmit to the tactile sense. The speakers were built into a mask to keep them close to the face, since the face is one of the most sensitive parts of the body.

The technology used was a laptop video camera from which video was captured by a Processing sketch that then sent the information to an Arduino controlling the 12 speakers. The Arduino needed to control 12 speakers on its 14 digital output pins.; however, there are only 6 PWM pins and 3 timers on a standard Arduino. I could not find a library that would allow this to happen so I wrote a new one called SoftwareTone. Instead of using hardware PWM, it controls the square wave tones in software using a timer callback. The SoftwareTone code is available here.

Overall it was a great time! Got to meet lots of interesting people including Saurik (the creator of Cydia) and got to work with a great team of other hacker-fellows.

You can see the github project page for more details including the Arduino and Processing sketches.

UPDATE: Syneseizure was just featured in Hack-A-Day