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Topic: Help conceiving a project (Read 1 time) previous topic - next topic


Jan 11, 2009, 02:38 pm Last Edit: Jan 11, 2009, 02:47 pm by leaf Reason: 1
Hi there,

I've never used Arduino before, but it's something I know I might be able to use for an art installation a friend is doing. She's doing the sculptural side of things. A mate of mine has the programming chops, and I'm keen create to sounds and direct the lighting and the way things trigger etc...

We're sort of having around 5 cocoon-like structures hanging from a ceiling, and we thought each cocoon could hav led's inside it, say 5 led's for each cocoon, plus also there would be a couple of small speakers in each  .

Then we'd program the led's and sounds to trigger in a certain sequence, and run them from a computer at some distance away from the installation.

Does this sound possible?

The main questions I have is, do we need seperate arduino boards for each coccon? or should we be runing longs wires everywhere from the one board? Can we run long wires? From the board to the leds/speakers?

Also, then the way we get to the computer is usb, right? If we run a long USB cable does that affect anything? Do we have to run multiple USB cables?

It's an outdoor project so there's perhaps the issue of waterproofing. The idea is to dig a hole with a box with the arduino board/s in it, and bury it underground.

I think that's all I can think of for now.

Hope anyone can help?


How would you power each structure? What would the distance from the structure to the controlling computer be?  What types of sounds are you trying to make? Are you going to need a lot of flash to store the sounds?

I would make five identical structures and control them with a Zigbee radio (like
the MaxStream XBee). All you would need to do is to plug in the structure. The control PC would then communicate point-to-point with each structure.

I have some application information and some simple examples of wireless control
at http://tinyurl.com/5rfmrz

The XBee also has digital I/O so for simple control a uC would not be needed.
Check the MaxStream XBee datasheet.

(* jcl *)


Jan 11, 2009, 03:48 pm Last Edit: Jan 11, 2009, 03:50 pm by AlphaBeta Reason: 1
[EDIT]Too slow... jluciani beat me ::)

There are some things to concider.

Are the leds gonna be individually controlled? (those within the cocoons)

Are the leds multicolored?

What kind of sounds are you aiming to make? Those of a piezo summer, or a regular speaker?

If the installation is goining to follow a predefined pattern, there is actually no need for the arduinos to be connected to the computer.
YOu can program the pattern into the arduino itself.


Since this is an outdoor project, you will need bright LEDs, otherwise they just won't show up in daylight.  Look for "high efficiency" and/or "high brightness" LEDs and test them in daylight before committing to a particular type.

You may even need to go as far as using the big 1 Watt (or more) LEDs designed for lighting applications (made by Cree, Luxeon, Philips, Osram) rather than the smaller types designed for indicator lights.


Jan 12, 2009, 02:29 am Last Edit: Jan 12, 2009, 02:43 am by leaf Reason: 1
Hi guys, thanks for the replies.

The idea of wireless control sounds great. How much does that board cost? A little confused as to how it works or what the function of this extra board is. Is it a case of having 5 arduino chips, which then plug into the ZB1, and are then sent off via an Xbee? Sounds like a big project then yeah? ANy other more simple way around it?

The sounds will be insect sounds, little crickets and bugs and stuff, so it's all higher register stuff. And to be honest I haven't looked into what speakers to buy, but I'm hoping something that doesn't really needs to be powered by anything other than a small battery. It doesn't have to be loud. Just as loud as a little cricket chirping.

You can imagine each cocoon has an led cycle that works with the cricket sounds, as if something is lying dormant/sleeping inside.

Plus I should mention the installation will be running at night time. So daylight isn't really an issue.

AS far as a pattern, the idea of using a an arduino is so we could use multiple patterns. A 'sleeping' regulated cricket sound/slow led pulse, to a more frenetic pattern, and then finally a crazy everything freaking out pattern.

So I guess if we are changing patterns it means we need to at least control something by the computer?

If we didn't want to change patterns like this (it makes for the evolution of the piece over the course of an evening) we would just use something a lot more rudimentary or battery powered.

If we need to power anything it will probably be from a car battery via an inverter.

I can imagine the computer would be some 10 - 20 metres away. Maybe more? I'm not sure at this point till we get to the site and see where we can set-up.


You could change pattern using arduino as a standalone. But then the logic/code would have to trigger the change.

Are you planning to play the music/samples using your computer or the arduino?

I think you do not actually need the computer (given it is not your source of sounds). Unless the installation is supposed to react to something spesific at the computer (for instance a change in sample being played).


My board, the ZB1, combines an ATmega168 with an XBee radio.
I burn the Arduino bootloader on the ATmega and use the Arduino tools
to program it. The pricing for my boards (ZB1) are at http://tinyurl.com/5rfmrz
If you decide you want to go that route and need five or more send me a private
email and I will be happy to go into more detail. My board is sold without the
XBee radio. The XBees are $20 each at Digikey or Mouser

The XBees have an embedded uC and are capable of digital I/O and analog input.
It should be possible to control LEDs with just an XBee (and a transistor buffer).
Playing the audio could be tricky.

(* jcl *)


In your original post you talk about using USB. Don't expect to use USB link longer than a few meters. 10 or 20m is far to long for USB to work.
If  the dialog is slow and you are poor use RS232. If you are rich use Zigbee.

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