Clearance Sale!

Come on down to Crazy Garrett's, the boss is away and the deals are government agents trying to control my mind! Ahem. Well, the deals are real enough...up to 60% off on some products.

The main reason for the sale is that we have some extra inventory of A6281-based products. Back when we started this business in 2008, there weren't many options for controllable RGB pixels...hard to believe today, but a $5 chainable RGB pixel with PWM was a pretty good deal back then. Times have changed, and the A6821 chip has been discontinued by Allegro. So we've decided to move this last batch of inventory out the door where it'll do some RGB blinky good rather than keeping our stock shelves from floating away.

In addition to the ShiftBrite and MegaBrite products, we're also discounting the OctoBrite DEFILIPPI even though the TLC5947 is still available. It's a good chip that can handle up to 30V strings of LEDs with 12bit PWM, but aside from special applications it seems that 5V and 8 bits are blinky enough. We're also discounting all of our 6-pin cables! These are made for ShiftBrites, but are just 6x1 0.1" female header cables...they are pretty useful for many tasks around the lab.

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Submitted by Garrett on Tue, 02/02/2016 - 14:08.

Audio Sensor Development Part 3: Theory Meets Reality

This article continues the development of an audio sensor device for the RGB Shades and LED Matrix Shades, starting with microphone calculations in Part 1.

We’re developing an add-on board to make the RGB Shades and LED Matrix Shades dance to music! Biggest news of this article is that you can try this out for yourself…we had a lot of extra prototype PCBs and hand-assembled a big batch. While the design needs some tweaking, by popular demand we put a bunch of the prototype version in the store. If you try it out, we’d love to hear your feedback!

In Part 2, the prototype device was constructed and tested. The initial tests were done without LEDs attached, and with high-level sound input at the microphone datasheet’s test frequency. This showed that the results agreed quite well with the design predictions, but that only gives an idea of how it will perform in the real application.

With the RGB Shades fully assembled and displaying some sound reactive patterns, there were some initial disappointments. The most noticeable problem was that the sound reactive patterns would sometimes react to themselves…patterns with a lot of bright LEDs would appear to feed back and generate even more input to the analog circuit. This would swamp out any incoming audio and reduce the usability of the system.

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Submitted by Garrett on Mon, 01/18/2016 - 01:20.

Audio Sensor Development Part 2: EDA, PCB, SPL, PSRR

This article continues the development of an audio sensor device for RGB Shades and LED Matrix Shades, starting with microphone calculations in Part 1.

With the preliminary calculations out of the way, it’s time for the fun part: making a real thing and testing it!

Design goals:
* Fits both RGB Shades and LED Matrix Shades
* Small, yet able to be hand-built for prototyping

Here’s the schematic for the prototype device. It’s about as simple as possible, loading the electret mic element with the recommended 2.2K resistor as well as using one for the input to the preamp circuit. The amplifier is a small rail-to-rail single-supply op-amp with a split rail to reference the input to the midpoint of the supply. The MSGEQ7 circuit follows the datasheet guidelines for setting the internal oscillator frequency with external resistor and capacitor. The output pins are carefully chosen to be compatible with both the RGB Shades and LED Matrix Shades, which unfortunately have different pinouts on the expansion connectors. A solder jumper is necessary to divert the analog output to the correct pin.

We’re using Cadsoft Eagle to design this device.

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Submitted by Garrett on Thu, 12/10/2015 - 17:44.

Audio Sensor Development Part 1: Microphone Math

Making LEDs blink and change colors is lots of fun, and pre-programmed sequences can look amazing. But wouldn’t LEDs be even more fun if they could react to their environment? The colors and patterns suddenly mean something. Depending on the sensors used, LEDs could react to temperature, movement, position, sound, and more.

We’ve been experimenting with music-reactive projects for quite a while, starting with the Shifty VU Shield in 2009. The Shifty VU Shield accepted a stereo audio input and allowed an Arduino to display sound-reactive patterns on a chain of ShiftBrite LEDs or OctoBrites.

In 2011, Garrett made a one-off project for a friend: The LED Viking Mohawk. This project was based on an Arduino Pro Mini and MSGEQ7 chip, and didn’t require a line-in audio connection; it used a microphone to analyze nearby sound and display reactive patterns.  Read more»

Submitted by Garrett on Thu, 12/10/2015 - 17:03.

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.