Controlling an 2D LED array by user presence/interaction

Hello there!

For my university project, I'd like to create a "plant" light installation with the help of arduino and LED's.
So far, so good. Additionally, I want the installation to react to people.

It should have the following functions:

  1. It reacts to the simple presence of people but a little stronger than the basic lighting.
  2. If the LED lights are touched, the plants should light up and the lights move like a wave in every direction from its touched plant.
    (much stronger than the reaction to the simple presence)

Possible technical approaches:

  1. Using Kinect to track the movement of the nearby people. Or making use of an infra-red camera, that can track heat signatures. Or using a thermal camera, that has almost the same function.
  2. Using flex sensors that react when someone touches the plant. Or a simple voltage field, that works similar, if someone touches it.

Can somebody tell me if there's a "smart" and possibly "cheap" way of implementing my project from the technical point of view?

Here's a .gif illustrating the project.

Thanks for your help in advance :slight_smile:


Perhaps you could use capacitive sensors to detect when part of the plant has been touched.

Lighting up LEDs in patterns and so on in simple enough in theory, but gets harder the more you are dealing with. How many independent LEDs were you thinking of having?

Hey PeterH,

thank you very much for your response :slight_smile:
I’m aiming for 10 x 10 LED’s. Is it feasible?

Kind regards,


As regards the display, if you were using an 8 by 8 array, a single MAX7219 can drive them with modest brightness (because they are being multiplexed, getting powered only one eighth of the time). This requires only three interface lines from an Arduino board - such as a Pro Mini.

You can use other I/O lines to implement a capacitance or "touch" sensor, perhaps four separate areas in quadrants using fine wire mesh integrated into the design.

Hey Paul_B!

Wow, thanks so much for your response, that really helps a lot!
I'm researching on your mentioned solutions now :slight_smile: Can I ask you some questions later on, if something is still unclear to me?

Thanks a lot and kind regards,


Well, if you wanted to can just buy the kit.

Soooo great, 1ChicagoDave!!! :smiley:

No, I really want to make it on my own, but this video shows me that it is really possible :smiley:
Thanks sooo much for it!

Kind regards,