Tag Archives: arduino

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!


AURORA WAVE: Interactive light display

Introducing AURORA WAVE, another member of the interactive light display devices for the elderly and people with cognitive challenges. AURORA WAVE is a movement-activated light device that creates a wide range of beautifully animated and soothing light patterns that appear to emanate from its core.


AURORA WAVE: (left) shown alongside the CORONA WAVE product

AURORA WAVE: (left) shown alongside the CORONA WAVE product

AURORA WAVE: (right) shown with CORONA WAVE

AURORA WAVE (left) shown alongside the CORONA WAVE product

AURORA WAVE: (left) shown cycling through one of the 9 animated light patterns

Here are some comments from a practitioner using the AURORA WAVE with residents of a long-term care facility:

“Wow!  What a powerful glow from all the LEDs.  The glow reflects off the wall mirrors and provides enough light for the whole room.  I used the AURORA WAVE with three of my residents in the Snoezelen room.  These are some of my most challenging residents.  The residents have severe dementia and very low activity tolerance and/or participation.  They did not comprehend touching the surface.  Some have severe contractures in their arms or fingers.  We watched the AURORA WAVE cycle through the various modes on its own and I would bring it closer to their line of vision and change it myself.  I did hand-over-hand action for some.  The AURORA WAVE gives off heat in the middle which was a nice side effect as it helps in arthritic relief.”

Larger than its brother, CORONA WAVE, the AURORA WAVE is 144mm (5.7″) in diameter and creates its light patterns and animations using nearly 100 RGB (red, green, blue) LEDs arranged in 5 consecutive rings.

The AURORA WAVE incorporates a novel infra-red sensor underneath its top surface to allow the user to control the pattern animation speed and brightness without requiring any physical touch. In addition, without user interaction, the brightness of the display is slowly reduced and the animation advanced to the next light pattern. This automatic mode is particularly effective for clients who enjoy the stimulation of the light patterns but are not able to control or interact with the device.

Currently the AURORA WAVE is being trialed with residents of a long-term care facility to test its effectiveness and utility.

Please standby for more information…

SHAPE SHIFTER – A shapely game for the elderly

Introducing “SHAPE SHIFTER”, a tactile and visually stimulating shapes and colours game

SHAPE SHIFTER sports large shaped illuminated tactile buttons and a big illuminated display. The bright and vibrant colours and playful melodies make this an engaging game for all ages.

Shape Shifter

Shape Shifter

Aimed primarily at the elderly and people with cognitive challenges, the current version of the SHAPE SHIFTER sports five games – “Follow Me” (simple and blink), “Memory Pairs”, and “Memory Sequence” (slow and speedy). Similar to the SIMPLER SIMON, the games are accompanied by musical tones and melodies.

The games of the SHAPE SHIFTER are selected upon start-up by pressing one of the shaped buttons. The details of each game are as follows:

  1. TRIANGLE: “Follow Me (simple)” game encourages the player to press the randomly illuminated button. In this  simplest version of the game, the button to be pressed remains illuminated until pressed
  2. CROSS: “Follow Me (flash)” is a slightly more challenging variant of the game as it just flashes the colour that is to be pressed.
  3. CIRCLE: “Memory Pairs” game shows a sequence of two random buttons, that encourages the user to press the correct buttons in the same sequence.
  4. PLUS: “Memory Sequence (slow)” game encourages the player to replay a random sequence of illuminated buttons. After each successful replay, the sequence is repeated slowly and lengthened by one. This game repeats the sequence slowly allowing plenty of time for the user to see and hear each button of the sequence.
  5. SQUARE: “Memory Sequence (fast)” game is for more advanced Memory Sequence game players, as the speed of the sequence increases with the length of the sequence.

For each of the games, play is accompanied with button tones and action melodies that include initial start-up; game selection, level start, level completion, and player error.

The game to be played is selected after the power-up routine by pressing on one of the five shaped illuminated buttons.

Game play encourages the player to stay engaged through multiple modes of feedback. Successful completion of each game level is accompanied by a rousing melody and the length of the number of rounds in the level is incremented. In addition, the tone of each button is also raised one semitone to indicate that the player is playing a progressively harder round. Successful completion of 10 rounds advances the player to the next SHAPE SHIFTER game.

More images to come…


CORONA TOUCH: Touch activated light display

Introducing the “CORONA TOUCH” interactive light display.

Based on ongoing developments for the elderly and/or people with cognitive challenges, CORONA TOUCH is a touch-activated light machine that creates a wide range of beautifully animated and soothing light patterns that emanate from its core.

Corona Touch

Corona Touch

Here are a few movies (care of Shirley Lee) of the CORONA TOUCH in operation

  1. CoronaTouch-v07
  2. CoronaTouch-v03
  3. CoronaTouch-v04
  4. CoronaTouch-v06
  5. CoronaTouch-v12
  6. CoronaTouch-v09
  7. CoronaTouch-v10
  8. CoronaTouch-v11

According to Wikipedia, “A corona (Latin, ‘crown’) is an aura of plasma that surrounds the sun and other stars… ” noting that “… the high temperature of the Sun’s corona gives it unusual spectral features”.  This is fitting for this little machine, as everyone who has played with CORONA TOUCH has been enthralled and attracted by its vivid colours and animated patterns.

Corona Touch

Corona Touch: the touch-activated light pattern machine

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