My project for Maker Faire this year was a grid of high brightness LEDs inside nylon Chinese lanterns, suspended from the ceiling of the exhibit space. We had two 10x10 foot popup canopies with the lanterns mounted above a lounge area with couches and music. Each lantern was controllable 24bit RGB, and the 16x8 grid displayed Processing audio-reactive animations. Tangible Interaction did a similar project for New Years 2011, which inspired us to put together this system for Maker Faire.
- (2) black 10x10 popup canopies
- (16) OctoBar LED controllers
- (128) Satellite S-001 RGB LED arrays
- (128) 14" nylon Chinese lanterns
- (128) 7' modular phone cables
- (~300) feet of 3/4" PVC tubing
- (lots) power cable
- (1) 1000W HP power supply
- (1) laptop running Processing
- (1) Arduino Uno (yeah just one!)
- (1) 32' USB active extender cable
I was actually surprised that it worked as well as it did. The Arduino (just one Arduino for the whole ceiling!) was able to update all 128 lanterns with 8 bits of resolution per color, at 25fps and above. The Arduino was actually reading and checking every RS232 byte, storing values into an array, applying a gamma lookup table, and blasting SPI data out to 128 32-bit registers on a single bus. Processing also ran surprisingly well. The laptop was maybe 4 years old, AMD processor, running Linux. It had no problem computing FFTs and beat detection on incoming audio, rendering all sorts of effects to an area of the screen, downsampling to 16x8, and performing a pixel-to-chain mapping lookup table before constructing an array to send to the Arduino over USB-serial.
Maker Faire was packed, but everyone who managed to fight their way to our exhibit was amazed. It was all I could do to actually talk to visitors instead of stare at the ceiling!
A lot of the Processing effects were sent in by people in the community. They're all credited in the code, thanks! It really helped get the project done on time.
Here's a blog article with more details about the setup (includes Processing and Arduino code): Maker Faire Bay Area 2011 | macetech.com
Here's a Flickr set for our visit to Maker Faire: http://www.flickr.com/photos/macetech/sets/72157626667664611