Tag Archives: arduino

PUSH-UPs… 2×8 pixel unit

After the design and build of the prototype PUSH-UPs articulated display panel, I have now built the first of 4 identical modules, each containing 16 controllable rods.

The four modules will form an 8×8 “pixel” animated surface display system to create a dynamically changing topography.

Stimulus for this display unit will be derived from a camera, an arrays of sensors, or purely from software that simulates different surface topologies.

PushUps: Top view of the 2×8 design

The design of the 2×8 unit parallels that of the 2×4 prototype. However, I changed the design of the servo horn and connecting linkage to ensure that the “pixels” fall onto a 33.34mm pitch (2 times the 16.67mm pitch of the LEDs on a 60 led/metre strip) for both rows and columns.

PushUps: side view showing the thinner servo horn and offset connecting linkage

In addition, the underside of the top plate was cut to allow for a simpler installation of the LED strip, that now contains a total of 34 LEDs.

PushUps: showing LED illumination for each “pixel” element

PushUps: all 16 units pictured in mid-articulation of a sine wave

PushUps: closeup of the servos

PushUps: closeup of the nano, 16-channel PWM/servo multiplexer and buck power supply

PushUps: close-up of the underside of the top plate showing installation of LED strip


Getting there!

PUSH-UPs: an articulated display panel

Introducing PUSH-UPs, an articulated display panel.

PushUps: a prototype for an articulated display surface

This is a 8 “pixel” prototype of a animated surface display system. The final goal is to create a surface with a hundred or more separately articulated “pixels” to create a dynamically changing topography. Stimulus for the larger unit may be from a camera, an arrays of sensors, or purely from software that simulated different surface topologies.

I’ve been talking about designing an articulated tabletop for sometime now – taking my inspiration from TRANSFORM, from the Tangible Media Group at MIT Media Labs. While I am not trying to copy their design, the key to this idea is in the design of a moving “pixel” that is small, provides several inches of “travel”, is able to be illuminated and, most importantly, cheap! This allows the design to be scaled to whatever size is desired. As this “pixel” element is actually a linear actuator, I have considered and experimented making all sorts of actuator designs but nothing I came up with is satisfying these criteria. In the video we can see that the table-top part of each pixel is a small square-section plastic tube connected to a wire or plastic linkage that connects to the control box below. But what is this control element and how does it provide the 4″ of travel that the video shows?

In a telephone discussion with Doug, an engineering colleague of mine, we noodled through some simple design ideas that would use cheap and readily available servo motors to articulate acrylic rods that can pass light.

So, the seeds of this prototype design were sown.

So, voila. PUSH-UPs.

I have made many designs using servos (see PopUp Clock, and Flipper) and I had plenty of the small metal-geared MG-90s on hand. In addition, I have created lots of clocks recently (yet to be posted) that use acrylic rods as light pipes for colourful displays so I had lots of 1/4″ and 3/8″ rod stock. And of course, I always have yards of addressable LEDs.

PushUps: going through the motions. Picture captured the unit articulating a sine wave

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KeyNotes: A Play-Along Keyboard

Here’s one of my latest projects, still in development:  KeyNotes

KeyNotes: A full octave of Illuminated keys

KeyNotes: showing the full keyboard octave of 13 notes from C to C

KeyNotes is a illuminated keyboard that sports 13 notes that span one complete octave: from C, C#, D, D#, E, F, F#, G, G#, A, A#, B, and C.  Each key is connected to a micro-controller to sound and illuminate each note.

While still in development, the intention is that KeyNotes joins the other www.SENSE-i.ca products that are designed to offer users the opportunity to engage with their environment through self-guided proscriptive stimulation to assist in decreasing responsive behaviours. KeyNotes players will be encouraged to play short pre-programmed sequences of commonly recognised melodies through both sound and light prompts.

The size and shape of each of the keys is modeled on my 88-note Yamaha Clavinova and cut from 12mm thick HDPE. The “white” notes and cut from one piece, while the “black’ notes are made from a sandwich of two pieces.  Each key pivots on a common brass bar that runs from dide to side.

KeyNotes: Photo of the design in progress. The two strings of LEDs are connected to discrete WS2811 chips mounted on veroboard strips. They are connected together to make one continuous string.

Each key activates a microswitch and is illuminated from below with a full-colour RGB LED. These LEDs are connected into one continuous ‘string’ that is controlled by the Arduino Nano.  The Arduino is responsible for sounding each note and to output key information to the MIDI output.

Neat, huh?

FLICKER: controllable intensity random flickering LED

An artist friend of mine asked me to create a light effect that he could use as part of one of his sculptures. The effect was to simulate bright white lightening that would illuminate a long thick clear acrylic rod.

I designed a unit to create random timing, random intensity light pattern that illuminated a 1W white LED.  In addition, I added a control that allowed the user to modulate the intensity of the effect from turned off all the way to full on.

The unit is based on an Arduino Nano that creates a random timing, random intensity light pattern to drive the 1W LED using a power FET.  Pulse-width modulation (PWM) is used to modulate the intensity of the LED. The software also takes an analogue input from the  potentiometer to allow the user to control the intensity of the light pattern; ranging from all off to full on.

FLICKER: small two-part HDPE housing with intensity control and input and output power jacks

FLICKER: connected to the 1W LED assembly. Note that the miniUSB of the Nano is accessible for future software loads

The FLICKER electronics is housed in a small two-part HDPE enclosure with also contains the input and output jacks, a rotary intensity control and an opening onto the miniUSB port of the Nano.

Surround Sound: The latest edition to the Simpler Simon series

Introducing Surround Sound, the latest member of the Simpler Simon interactive games.

Surround Sound:Sporting bubble lines and large arcade-style illuminated buttons.

One of the comments from users of the original Simpler Simon was that the sound effects were not loud enough. In addition, those users who had some musical background, found the “circular” sound aspect of the game somewhat confusing. They were more used to the idea of keys and corresponding notes being presented in a linear fashion; much like a piano keyboard…

So, voila!

The Surround Sound offers a new look and feel, with large illuminated arcade-style buttons that can take a lot of pounding, and up to 4 watts of sound for those with the hardest of hearing. And, there is a simple-to-use volume control built in!

As my recreologist friend noted…

“The staff in my activity department tried the new and improved Simpler Simon…. The longer design allowed the device to rest on the lap comfortably.  The volunteers tried it too.  It is a hit!  “

All the great games of the Simpler Simon with a new look-and-feel – jumbo buttons and lots of volume for game-play sound effects.

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Dimmer Not Dumber II: Servo-controlled light fader

Introducing the “Dimmer Not Dumber” II

A novel approach to fading line voltage lights!

This video shows me triggering the unit and then at the end, applying a reset signal. The unit is programmed to climb slowly to preset light levels upon repetitive triggering (10%, 20%, 30%, 40% and 100%). The reset signal applied at the end [44s] slowly fades down the light intensity to fully OFF.

A client wanted me to control the brightness of two sets of residential 110v pot lights. The only experience I have in controlling line-powered equipment is through using relays and opto-isolated solid state switches. However, these just provide simple ON/OFF control; and dimming lights is a whole different ball of wax! Plus, I did NOT want to mess with mains voltages!  There are devices on the market to do this but they are a) expensive, b) require electronics connected to the 110v load side and c) require real-time software to control (see discussion below). I wanted a simpler solution that used off-the-shelf residential electrical components, used simple electronics and gave me complete electrical isolation.

So, I came up with the “Dimmer Not Dumber” light fader design.

In this design, a servo motor is connected to the shaft of an unmodified residential light dimmer (Levitron, I believe) via a simple gear pair. This dimmer has a control shaft that rotates about 320 degrees to fade between full OFF to full ON. In addition, pushing the switch knob turns the whole unit ON and OFF.

As servo articulation is typically a maximum of 180 degrees, a 2:1 gear pair means that the full range of the servo translates into a complete rotation of the dimmer shaft. Control of the servo position therefore allows full control of the intensity of the light, so now all I have to do is connect the servo to a micro-controller and voila!  Full control of the light intensity and complete electrical isolation!

The Dimmer Not Dumber II version now includes an Arduino Nano, input conditioning for 5 – 24V triggers and a 5V buck converter. An 8-tooth gear attaches to the electrical fader’s control shaft and tightened with a small set screw, while the larger 16 tooth gear attaches to the servo using a plastic servo horn.  All electrical components are located within pockets in the base attachment plate while the upper plate holds the servo and has holes to access the pair of 3-pin servo connections and the 4-pin screw terminal block for external connections.

The body of the unit is made in two parts: a 12mm HDPE base attachment plate and a 6mm HDPE upper plate servo mount. The base and upper plates are attached using 3 3mm Allen-head bolts. The electrical fader mounts inside an electrical box as normal, and the Dimmer Not Dumber II unit bolts to the dimmer using the normal screw holes used for fascia plates.

Dimmer Not Dumber II: showing top face with the two servo pins and the external connection screw terminals.

Dimmer Not Dumber II: closeup of the two servo connector pins and the screw terminals for 9-12V, Ground, Trigger and Reset connections

“Dimmer Not Dumber” works like a charm, both in the light and the dark!

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SPEEDY SIMON – The Memory Game in a Rush

Introducing SPEEDY SIMON, the sequence memory game that never slows down!

Yes… SPEEDY SIMON is what happens when you are stuffed up with a cold, feeling like crap, have a CNC machine, and some time on your hands (excuse the pun!) And no, this is not a clock!

Bright and colourful lights accompanied by musical notes for each button and melodies for game action make this a fun and fast game for solo or group play.

Speedy SImon

Speedy Simon: 120mm diameter enclosure sporting large illuminated buttons and a reset button

Based on the software that I wrote for the “SIMPLER SIMON” game, this memory sequence game takes no prisoners. The game play is fast and furious – each successful round increments the memory sequence by one and speeds up the display sequence.

You’ve got to be fast and alert to master this little puppy!  (it’s the cold medication, officer)

Speedy SImon

Speedy Simon: caught in the act between games (both yellow and blue buttons are illuminated)

Built into a 4 layer HDPE enclosure, SPEEDY SIMON sports 5 large illuminated buttons with an additional restart button in its centre. An Arduino Nano holds the software for game play while a a small switching regulator provides a stable 5V supply from any 6 – 9V DC “wall-wart”.

And like all good games, this is quick to learn, yet , hard to master!