LED Matrix Handbag 2.0 – How To

Bag PicturesMy previous post describes a handbag containing a Twitter-connected LED matrix.  The project was somewhat complicated to assemble – particularly the handbag sewing and construction.  This post describes a simpler and more practical way to incorporate an LED matrix into a handbag.  I’ve made several different versions of this project now, involving different styles of handbag.  The version described here produces a vinyl tote bag with contrasting accent fabric as seen above.

Video demonstration of the handbag below:

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LED Matrix Handbag 2.0 – Coming Soon

I recently made a simpler and more attractive version of the LED Matrix Handbag to bring to the Bay Area Maker Faire.  It is far easier to sew than the original, with more streamlined and compact electronics.    Hackaday spoke to me at the Maker Faire about the handbag, and published the interview. If you’re interested in making one yourself, I plan to have a project write-up finished within the next few weeks as soon as I can get to it.  In the meantime, here are some pictures and footage of the latest LED Handbag:




Tweet My Purse! (LED Matrix Handbag)

Handbag displaying "hi"
Handbag displaying “hi”

My goal with this project was to create a wearable electronics project that incorporated the electronics in an organic and subtle way.  The end result is a handbag containing a programmable 10×6 LED matrix hidden inside the lining, with the LEDs visible from behind metal eyelets.  The LED matrix is controlled by a Teensy 3.2,which connects to an iPhone via an Adafruit BlueFruit BLE UART Friend.  The Adafruit Bluefruit App on the iPhone subscribes to a MQTT feed (from Adafruit.io in this case), which streams data culled from Twitter via IFTTT.  Any tweets with the hashtag “#wearables” have their Twitter handle displayed on the handbag’s LED  matrix.  Video demonstration below:

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Entering the IoT with CheerLights and Adafruit Huzzah

CheerLights with Huzzah showing blue.
CheerLights with Huzzah showing blue.

It’s hard to avoid the Internet of Things (IoT) these days.  I thought I’d join the trend by starting simply.  I was inspired by the CheerLights project, which uses a Twitter feed to synchronize the color of lights around the world.  I first saw it through a link to an implementation by Dr. Lucy Rogers, who made a color-changing Christmas tree to adorn the cast on her arm.

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EtchABot Part 2: Vector and Raster Images

This post describes how to draw vector and raster images on an Etch a Sketch with EtchABot.  As described previously, EtchABot converts an Etch A Sketch to an versatile, easy-build CNC drawing machine.

In image drawing mode, EtchABot receives instructions through the Arduino serial port.  When connected to a computer running software that converts images to a series of drawing commands, EtchABot can reproduce vector (SVG) or raster images.

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A Tribute to Mechanized Etch A Sketches on the Internet

Motorized Etch A Sketch from http://www.paleotechnologist.net/?p=3625
Motorized Etch A Sketch from paleotechnologist.net

In working on my latest project, a CNC Etch A Sketch, I’ve come across a LOT of similar projects online.  There is obviously something very appealing about taking a childhood toy and giving it electronic controls.

Before adding my own version of this project to the canon, I would like to recognize and thank the large number of people who have so generously shared their knowledge and projects.  So, this post is a listing of mechanical Etch A Sketches I’ve found online.   If you know of a project that you don’t see here but would like to include, please email it to me, and I’ll add it to the list.

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EtchABot: a CNC Etch A Sketch

The EtchABot - a CNC Etch A Sketch
EtchABot – a CNC Etch A Sketch

EtchABot turns your Etch A Sketch into a CNC (Computer Numerical Control) drawing machine.  I’m really excited about this project because of its versatility and its well balanced combination of entertaining and educational aspects.  It’s always fun to hack a toy to do something above and beyond its original intent, and if you build the EtchABot and run the example Arduino sketches, you can make:

EtchABot Gallery

There is an EtchABot Arduino library, so it’s also easy to program it with your own ideas.

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Making Uncanny Eyes

Spooky eyes blink, move and even dilate their pupils.

My middle son and I have a tradition of incorporating electronics projects into our Halloween costumes. This year we saw the tutorial for Uncanny Eyes on Adafruit, written by Phillip Burgess, and instantly decided that we had to make them. The project uses two TFT or OLED screens to create realistic moving and blinking eyes controlled by a Teensy 3.1. This post documents our build process and how we’ve each decided to use the eyes differently in our Halloween costumes. It will make more sense if you’ve read the tutorial on Adafruit, however, you should still be able to follow along even if you haven’t.

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3D Printed No-Carve Pumpkin Decorations for Halloween

3D printed goggles make the minion.
3D printed goggles make the minion.

I love Halloween for its spooky and amusing decorations and am always amazed by the creativity people put into making jack-o-lanterns.  However, it’s frustrating to put hours of creative work into carving a pumpkin, just to have it rot after only a few days.  The simplest solution is no-carve pumpkin decorating.  You can find articles on painted and embellished pumpkins online, however, I haven’t seen any that explore the possibilities that a 3D printer adds.  So, I thought I’d bring a little high-tech to my arts-and-crafts projects.

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“Life” on a SmartMatrix Board

SmartMatrix Game of Life
Custom controller + SmartMatrix board + Teensy 3.1 with SmartMatrix shield = Conway’s Game of Life

The SmartMatrix board is a 32×32 RGB pixel RGB display (other sizes are available), and it makes an eye-catching display.  There is an existing code library to run it from a Teensy 3.1 with a SmartMatrix Shield. The hardware setup and code library are documented at the pixelmatrix website.  The library has all kinds of cool looking built-in effects, like text scrolling and geometric shapes.

The easiest way to program the Teensy is to add the TeensyDuino extension to the Arduino IDE.  Once the extension is setup, the code can be written in the IDE, and it is loaded onto the Teensy board just like an Arduino.  The only noticeable difference is that the code does not automatically load if the Teensy is running a program.  In that case, you have to press the Teensy’s “reset” button to complete the loading of new code.

Any project on the SmartMatrix board had to look good at a low pixel resolution.  Jason Coon’s implementation of Conway’s Game of Life seemed like an interesting application to run.  

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