Super-sized Musixel Wall

At the World Maker Faire in New York City this year, we were able to show off the RGB Shades in the Maker Shed for the first time ever! It was a lot of fun, and we were positioned right next to our friends at Spikenzie Labs. They brought some new products, including the Musixel (an audio sensor that controls a strip of addressable LEDs).

Here's a quick demo video of what the Musixel kit can do:

It's a small PCB with an audio input jack, an 8-pin PIC microcontroller, an MSGEQ7 seven-band spectrum analyzer chip, and various passive components. The PIC reads analog values corresponding to several frequency bands from the audio jack, and outputs WS2811-compatible commands. Spikenzie Labs includes a strip of 16 WS2812 LEDs, but it will work with up to 64 WS2812 LEDs arranged in an 8x8 matrix.

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Submitted by Garrett on Sun, 11/08/2015 - 20:17.

RGB Shades Jack-o'-Lantern

Here's a quick demo of how to create a new pattern for the RGB Shades. We'll add some jack-o'-lantern triangle eyes, and make them flicker orange just like the real thing (well, sort of).

First off, here's the final result. It's pretty hard to capture the effect on camera, especially since orange colors seem to max out the sensor so that it always appears bright. But watch the reflection in the table and you'll get the idea:

We're using codebender to edit and upload a custom sketch to the RGB Shades. Once you get the browser plugin installed, it's a really easy way to get started without a lot of downloading and setup. Plus, all the required libraries are pre-installed and kept up-to-date. In this case, we're using the excellent FastLED library, which controls the WS2812/APA104/Neopixel style LEDs easily and has many helper functions for managing pixels.

The best place to start is a working sketch. This is our main demo code for the RGB Shades: RGB Shades on codebender

Clicking that should display a sketch editing window much like the one below (if you're logged in on codebender):

You can clone the project to your own account by pressing the Clone button. Then, change the name to make the project more descriptive by clicking the name of the project and editing the text there.
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Submitted by Garrett on Mon, 10/26/2015 - 23:56.

LED Shades at Make: Volume 43 Wearables Meetup

Make recently held a meetup at their new makerspace located in the Palace of Fine Arts in San Francisco. The theme was the celebration of their new volume of Makezine, Volume 43, the Wearables issue. We wish we could have been there, but were thrilled to see this video of our LED Matrix Shades putting in a major appearance thanks to Tenaya Hurst!

Submitted by Garrett on Sat, 01/24/2015 - 01:40.

Kickstarter Backer Alert with Stats Scroller, using Arduino Yun

The Arduino Yún is a curious addition to the Arduino family. There is a fairly widespread community surrounding the Arduino concept, platform and software. There's another popular community dedicated to hacking and improving inexpensive wireless routers, which often run Linux. The Yún combines the's basically an Arduino Leonardo housed on the same PCB as an Atheros AR9331 wireless router (commonly found in TP-Link and other popular hackable routers). They're connected through a serial port and run independently, but the Linino team has developed a few ways to make them team up on some tasks.

Recently, we created our first Kickstarter campaign (RGB LED Shades). It's very exciting to see the "New Backer Alert!" emails roll in, and the notifications pop up on a smartphone. But we wanted to see our Kickstarter stats at a glance, and be notified whenever we have a new backer. The Linux side of the Yún can run scripting languages such as Python to scrape website data and control an LED marquee sign, and the Arduino side can control some I/O for an impossible-to-ignore new backer alert.

Read the full Instructable here:

Submitted by Garrett on Tue, 10/14/2014 - 14:52.

RGB LED Shades Kickstarter Launched

After a lot of work and frustration, we've finally launched the RGB LED Shades on Kickstarter!

"We're excited to announce our newest piece of wearable electronics: RGB LED Shades! They're colorful, bright, hackable, and the pinnacle of conversation-starting technology. A fun way to learn programming and electronics, yet just as entertaining for experienced tinkerers. But if you need a stunning fashion accessory without writing code, they're pre-loaded with dazzling patterns out of the box!"

Submitted by Garrett on Thu, 09/25/2014 - 17:29.

Deep discounts on ShiftBrites and MegaBrites!

We've put ShiftBrites, Headerless ShiftBrites, and MegaBrite 90's on sale:

ShiftBrite 2.0

The ShiftBrite 2.0 is a redesign of the very first macetech product. It's a bright RGB LED module that uses a simple shift register control method to output 30-bit color. Most RGB LED solutions can only do 255 brightness levels per color; the ShiftBrite can do 1023. It has a sturdy mounting hole pattern, and 6-pin connectors that match our cables for trouble-free mounting, hookup, and maintenance.

Headerless ShiftBrite 2.0

The Headerless ShiftBrite 2.0 is the same as the regular ShiftBrite, except that the headers have been left off for more flexible hookup options. You can solder your own headers (straight or angled), another 0.1" spaced connector, or just use wires. This is a good option for tighter spaces.

MegaBrite 90  Read more»

Submitted by Garrett on Tue, 07/22/2014 - 10:15.

240 Pixel WS2812 Array

My friend Scott randomly dropped by the macetech LLC lab up here in Pullman, WA. He brought a cool thing to show off...a big array of 60px/m RGB pixels using the WS2812 LEDs. It's very bright in person and I was impressed with the matchup of the 60px/m LED spacing and the fluorescent lighting louver grid. I've definitely used the grid in a lot of projects, but never made that connection! His controller uses a custom WS2812 library running on a Digilent chipKIT Max32 with plenty of CPU power to spare.

Submitted by Garrett on Sat, 07/19/2014 - 00:11.

Hacking the RGB Shades

We've got a new article over on Makezine today, showing how I added an audio-detection circuit to both the RGB Shades and the LED Matrix Shades. The result was REALLY cool and finally used the extra pins I'd made available on both designs. Audio detection is just the beginning...I have a few more ideas for sensors to add to LED Shades, and it would be great to see your suggestions. They might make it into another video!

Anyway, head on over the Makezine to see the full article: Hacking the Macetech RGB Shades

Submitted by Garrett on Fri, 07/18/2014 - 23:15.

LED Shades V0.1 Open Sourced

Back in 2012, in the few weeks preceding Maker Faire Bay Area, I was excited about a new secret project. We had the macetech LED Lounge again, but this was a way to take the party with you. Wearable LED shutter shades with a built-in Arduino-compatible controller!

They were a huge hit, both at Maker Faire Bay Area and Maker Faire New York. It was impossible to walk down the street in Manhattan without getting comments and questions every few seconds.

However, the first LED Shades were nothing more than prototypes. They were hurriedly designed. Didn't have much resolution, didn't have folding hinges or cables with connectors, the battery was taped onto the side, and so on. The biggest problem was one that didn't show up for months, but claimed all but one of our prototypes (which still works to this day). The problem was that the LED driver ICs along the top edge of the PCB would crack internally due to flexing stress while being worn.

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Submitted by Garrett on Wed, 07/02/2014 - 23:12.

LED Matrix Shades Have Arrived!

A quick introduction: LED Matrix Shades are a very cool piece of wearable technology that integrates a fully hackable Arduino-compatible processor with an LED matrix you can see through. They are the ultimate attention grabber at social events, and inspires curiosity among technology enthusiasts of all ages. Every function can be reprogrammed by the user, and there are even places to solder your own circuits and sensors.

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Submitted by Garrett on Sun, 06/29/2014 - 00:56.