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Arduino-Based, High Powered LED Lighting Over Wi-Fi

Soulskill posted more than 3 years ago | from the hacking-up-some-trippiness dept.

Hardware Hacking 114

Gibbs-Duhem writes "This awesome video was produced by some MIT engineers recently. They've started a fully open-source, open-hardware high power LED lighting project that they designed to be modular enough to control with the Arduino (or any other control system). Using their open-source firmware, you can set up the Arduino to connect to Wi-Fi and receive Open Sound Control packets. Then, they went further and released open-source software for PureData and Python to do music analysis and make the lights flash brilliantly in time with the music! A full Instructable was also posted in addition to the existing documentation for design and assembly on their website."

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I have the perfect band to use this with (4, Funny)

digitaldc (879047) | more than 3 years ago | (#34284062)

LED Zeppelin

Re:I have the perfect band to use this with (1)

Stregano (1285764) | more than 3 years ago | (#34284088)

Speed Metal would be a great test for this to see if the led's can keep up

Re:I have the perfect band to use this with (1)

interval1066 (668936) | more than 3 years ago | (#34285424)

It would be if anyone liked speed metal.

Re:I have the perfect band to use this with (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34285828)

the answer is yes, it could totally keep up. have you seen pov hardrive or spoke projects? led on off time is insanely fast.

Re:I have the perfect band to use this with (1)

PatPending (953482) | more than 3 years ago | (#34284424)

Electric Light Orchestra []

Re:I have the perfect band to use this with (1)

Tetsujin (103070) | more than 3 years ago | (#34285564)

Electric Light Orchestra []

Thanks for the Wikipedia link! Now I can easily find out who Electric Light Orchestra is!

Re:I have the perfect band to use this with (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34284442)

LED Zeppelin

Dear Mods: Parent post was a joke.

Re:I have the perfect band to use this with (0)

PatPending (953482) | more than 3 years ago | (#34284468)

LED Zeppelin

Dear Mods: Parent post was a joke.

+1 Insightful

Re:I have the perfect band to use this with (1)

Tetsujin (103070) | more than 3 years ago | (#34285582)

LED Zeppelin

Dear Mods: Parent post was a joke.

+1 Insightful

+1 Dur-hey

Re:I have the perfect band to use this with (1)

Archangel Michael (180766) | more than 3 years ago | (#34284574)

Was it??? Perhaps a Double Entendre [] ?

Re:I have the perfect band to use this with (2, Funny)

Monkeedude1212 (1560403) | more than 3 years ago | (#34284608)


I just got it.

Re:I have the perfect band to use this with (1)

Yvan256 (722131) | more than 3 years ago | (#34285580)

That's some serious lag.

Wow (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34284068)

Students invent music light-show.
More news at 11.

omg (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34284072)

omg arduino! its not slashdot worthy without arduino!

Re:omg (0, Offtopic)

Yvan256 (722131) | more than 3 years ago | (#34284232)

If only they could find a way to install Linux inside the Arduino and then make beowulf clus.. OUCH! MY ARM! OK I'LL STOP!

Arduino again? (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34284092)

Can't people write regular C code anymore these days? When you get down to it, Arduino is just software added to a regular Atmel AVRs.

Re:Arduino again? (1)

RapmasterT (787426) | more than 3 years ago | (#34284188)

Can't people write regular C code anymore these days? When you get down to it, Arduino is just software added to a regular Atmel AVRs.

I was going to say that! only with more actual words.

Re:Arduino again? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34284246)

Better than dealing with pompus video artists going for their MFA who "program" in Jitter.

Re:Arduino again? (4, Insightful)

Gordonjcp (186804) | more than 3 years ago | (#34284272)

You program Arduinos in C++. The IDE thing that comes with it basically wraps some boilerplate around your code, runs it through avr-gcc and uploads it with avrdude.

There's nothing to stop you writing something from scratch to run on an Arduino board, and even pulling in some of the useful libraries that people have created for it. I actually prefer to write my code in gedit and use a fairly normal Makefile to make and upload the code.

Re:Arduino again? (1)

thelexx (237096) | more than 3 years ago | (#34285344)

When I looked into them 2-3 years ago, the Arduino was pretty obviously targeted at artists and less technical hobbyists. Using eclipse and uploading/debugging right from it was the route I took with the Mega128's in my bot. Maybe things have changed, but at the time the price/performance of the Arduino stuff just wasn't there for me. There were/are many really nice controller boards (for the Mega's anyway) that far outstrip the capabilities of what Arduino offers, and cost less.

Re:Arduino again? (1)

Gordonjcp (186804) | more than 3 years ago | (#34287364)

If you're going to use Eclipse, you may as well use Arduino's own "Wiring" IDE. I mean, if you're going to put up with slow, crashy, buggy Java cruft then why make life extra hard?

At the time I started getting into using Arduino boards (about three years ago), it was by far the cheapest AVR development board with a built-in USB-to-serial converter.

Re:Arduino again? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34284602)

If you read TFA, you would see that for advanced users they have ARM Cortex M3 support via the LeafLabs Maple []

In the grand scheme of tech-elitism, ARM >> AVR. :P

Presumably they use Arduino because it is so popular, they want tinkerers to join them in building their software, right?

Re:Arduino again? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34284770)

In the grand scheme of tech-elitism, ARM >> AVR. :P

ARM bitshift right AVR? I don't get it.

Re:Arduino again? (1)

Yvan256 (722131) | more than 3 years ago | (#34285596)

Maybe his ARM are 9-bit?

Re:Arduino again? (1)

Tetsujin (103070) | more than 3 years ago | (#34285658)

In the grand scheme of tech-elitism, ARM >> AVR. :P

ARM bitshift right AVR? I don't get it.

No, it's C++. He's pulling an entire AVR out of an ARM, demonstrating ARM's superiority!

Re:Arduino again? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34285844)

You mean like this ambient device: []

Okay (2, Informative)

Sylak (1611137) | more than 3 years ago | (#34284186)

EDMX/ETCNet is still going to remain the control standard for using Wifi to control lights, especially when DMX information is readily available online.

This method will probably only lend way to hobbiests who can't justify purchasing the equipment, when even DJs use DMX now. (Although Net2 touring nodes are relatively cheap now, and Net2 compatible light boards are popping up on eBay with the new generation of light boards replacing the old ones)

Re:Okay (0, Troll)

MichaelKristopeit202 (1943250) | more than 3 years ago | (#34284318)

"is still going to remain"

are you claiming that it will remain forever?

Re:Okay (1)

Sylak (1611137) | more than 3 years ago | (#34286406)

I'm saying that EDMX is in no present danger of being replaced by a new alternative because of the process USITT takes to ratify protocol, so even if this is accepted as a USITT standard most if not all equipment will remain (as it is now) with only the 5-pin or 3-pin DMX protocol, requiring extra hardware to convert the new protocol into DMX, with software upgrades to support this protocol possible with the newer software revisions of the current-generation light desks.

Re:Okay (1)

MichaelKristopeit166 (1939482) | more than 3 years ago | (#34286606)

of course existing equipment stays the same... this is new equipment... it works different.

everything isn't about annihilation of all alternatives.

Re:Okay (1)

Sylak (1611137) | more than 3 years ago | (#34286790)

No, but my point was that I don't belive that large-scale manufacturers (Levation/American DJ, ETC, Martin) won't adopt it, just as they haven't even adopted any other Ethernet protocols (Including ETC and their own protocol) in their Intelligent Light units.

I can see this stopping at DJs or small theatres building their own equipment just as a way to transfer DMX to a chain of Dimmer Packs when they can't afford a Dimmer Rack with runs, or afford pre-made hardware.

Re:Okay (1)

MichaelKristopeit166 (1939482) | more than 3 years ago | (#34287154)

same as home audio studio solutions have evolved, eventually hobbyists solutions will function adequately at fractions of the cost creating a new large-scale demand while eliminating another.

large-scale manufacturers are not guaranteed to always be large scale distributors.

Re:Okay (2, Informative)

makkbe (1124889) | more than 3 years ago | (#34284382)

Art-Net (although completely worthless, just as ETCNet) is much more widespread than ETCNet looking outside the US, even over WiFi. But while you're building something like this, why not go for an open protocol that is really designed for controlling lights, such as BSR E1.31? Plain stupid in my eyes; I'll have to fix their firmware. On another note, using WiFi for lighting control is idiotic. WiFi is no way near stable enough to provide a decent transport for time critical protocols.

Re:Okay (1)

Sylak (1611137) | more than 3 years ago | (#34286506)

I figured most people outside of the trade wouldn't really care that wifi is the worst idea for a light desk, so i didn't think to mention it, especially considering this generations obsession with wireless. Personally, if i wanted a wireless light system for anything but an RVI, i would actually spend the money for the dedicated WDMX nodes that are FCC Class A devices, even if they cost several times more than a typical 802.11g/n router.

Being state-side, I've only gotten to work with Ethernet system that run EDMX, but do know of Art-net just don't know specifics, but i'm going to take some time to look it up now.

As for adding protocols, i don't doubt that any Ethernet-based protocols could easily be added to most newer boards (Hog3, Congo, etc) via software update, like the Congo (which does ArtNet, ACN, and Net2/3) got Net3 support in the v5 release.

Re:Okay (1)

Gibbs-Duhem (1058152) | more than 3 years ago | (#34286456)

Next project is to build a DMX -> OSC converter. It won't be terribly hard, but we're all busy with day jobs.

If you'd like to help, feel free to join the development mailing list. The plan was to do it using a maple board, but FPGA would probably be simpler and cheaper.

Arduino bla bla bla (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34284214)

This post mentions Arduino bla bla bla guaranteed mod points bla bla bla. Arduino Arduino bla bla.

So .... ? (3, Insightful)

BisexualPuppy (914772) | more than 3 years ago | (#34284228)

"This awesome video "
That's a bunch of LEDs glowing with a music. Hardly awesome, especially for slashdot crowd, who for sure knows that blinking a LED (or even four or five) is not rocket science. That's the first step for every Arduino beginner.

make the lights flash brilliantly in time with the music! Whow ! THAT is impressive ! Let's throw some exclamation marks ! !!!!! !!!! !

So, I think I missed something. Seriously, MIT students made some LEDs glow according to a music. Fourrier, (very) basic electronic. Is MIT a college now ?

Re:So .... ? (1)

Yvan256 (722131) | more than 3 years ago | (#34284248)

Not only that, but Arduino instead of straight C code? They should receive bad grades for making MIT look like pre-school.

Re:So .... ? (2)

BisexualPuppy (914772) | more than 3 years ago | (#34284324)

What's the point of C on Arduino ? (I'm writing an AVR/Arduino emulator, so don't get me wrong). Just an Arduino comes with an easy language to deal with (which is by the way a subset of C, kind of), with a lot of easy to use libraries. So why the hell, performances aside, do you want to make C on an Arduino ?

Re:So .... ? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34284416)

Why the hell would you want to NOT write C code for the Arduino? Arduino code looks like 3/4 of the way to full-blown C anyway, and C's dev tools are waaay better. The Arduino is basically for artist-types and hobbyists, who have no formal technical training, but still want to try to pass themselves off as geeks. If you care about real-time control, forget about the Arduino. I'm not even sure there's a way to use the ATMega's interrupts using the Arduino platform. Every piece of Arduino code I've seen so far seems to use polling instead of interrupts.

Re:So .... ? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34284498)

And furthermore, it's a matter of using the right tools for the job. This could have very easily been implemented on an ARM MCU dev board. Many ARM MCUs have built-in 10/100BASE MACs, and porting FreeRTOS would be trivial. The Arduino is what I plan to use to introduce my 2-year-old to microcontrollers in a few years.

Re:So .... ? (1, Insightful)

Yvan256 (722131) | more than 3 years ago | (#34284428)

If you don't know how to code in C or if you're not a programmer to begin with, Arduino is fine. But for MIT students, if find it weird.

You can't say 'performance aside' in the real world. If your C code can run on a 4 MHz AVR but your Arduino code requires a 8 MHz part to do the same job, you're potentially costing your company a lot of money*.

* I'm talking millions+ of units here, for 1 to 1000 units the cost difference between the two parts is almost negligible.

Re:So .... ? (1)

Demonantis (1340557) | more than 3 years ago | (#34284562)

You would be surprised how often engineer and computer programmer are not synonymous.

Re:So .... ? (2, Interesting)

BisexualPuppy (914772) | more than 3 years ago | (#34284570)

Blinking some LEDs doesn't require 8Mhz. Nor 4Mhz. Actually, it requires something like blinking_time*2Hz. Performances are *not* a problem here. Why do you think so many people program in Java or .NET stuff ? Because nowadays it's good enough, and it saves days, weeks, months, or years worth of salaries. Hardware is cheap, brain is expensive. My question is : Why the hell do you want them to code in C (or assembly, if I follow your path) to blink some LEDs ?? (And remember that Arduino language is nothing else that preprocessed C, it is in fact compiled with avr-gcc).
(Ho, and I code in assembly at least once a week, I code embedded C for a living, so I'm hardly saying that because I don't like low level stuff. Coding for performance in this kind of project is just not relevant)

Re:So .... ? (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34284768)

There's blinking and there's blinking. If you are doing any processing besides mere on/off, and are multiplexing a chain of 32+ individually PWM'd addressable LEDs, you do need a few MHz. I know because I coded and built one in avr assembly for my Christmas tree. I suppose I could have have used Java on some much beefier hardware, but fuck that.

Re:So .... ? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34284630)

From TFA: they also provide firmware for the ARM Cortex M3 with the LeafLabs Maple [] . Nice job reading! Presumably they went with Arduino because it's the most popular thing out there. Duh.

Re:So .... ? (1)

fpgaprogrammer (1086859) | more than 3 years ago | (#34285630)

Summary is deceptive: They don't use an Arduino. They use their own ARM Maple board: [] which was designed to the Arduino form factor.

These lights lit up our burning man camp :)

Re:So .... ? (1)

CraftyJack (1031736) | more than 3 years ago | (#34285310)

So in summary, meh results from unimpressive tech. However: video, MIT, open-source, open-hardware, Arduino, instructable. You just won MakerBingo.

Relaxen und watchen (2, Funny)

Arancaytar (966377) | more than 3 years ago | (#34284300)

Das Blinkenlichten. :)

Re:Relaxen und watchen (2, Funny)

thewils (463314) | more than 3 years ago | (#34284392)

Sorry, spelling Nazi here; "Die" Blinkenlichten!

Re:Relaxen und watchen (3, Funny)

Professr3 (670356) | more than 3 years ago | (#34284462)


Re:Relaxen und watchen (1)

Arancaytar (966377) | more than 3 years ago | (#34285258)

Man, not even allowed to mangle my own language any more? ;)

(*Runs from the grammar gestapo.*)

Re:Relaxen und watchen (1)

BaldingByMicrosoft (585534) | more than 3 years ago | (#34285400)

Sadly, I realize that some folks reading may not know of this meme. Thanks Wikipedia!

Blinkenlights []

The progress is amazing (2, Insightful)

m2shariy (1194621) | more than 3 years ago | (#34284384)

Just imagine that in the 70s people used to do the same kind of stuff with just a few transistors :)

Re:The progress is amazing (1)

GrahamCox (741991) | more than 3 years ago | (#34287730)

Yes, I thought the same. Sure, this is likely to have a few more effects and so on, but really, who pays much attention to how the sound-to-light works? I remember making a very effective one with a single thyristor, a potentiometer and a small transformer. That very simplicity makes it easy to get a kid interested in electronics; something this complex will only serve to make most think it's well beyond them.

This video is much better (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34284444)

Re:This video is much better (1)

tchdab1 (164848) | more than 3 years ago | (#34285162)

Yes it's a bit better, but I'm still waiting for the awesome part. I mean, it's just light colors associated to wavelengths and reacting to volume.
I'm not trolling, but I'm truly wondering what the excitement is. Are others really excited by this? If so, it must be me.

Re:This video is much better (1)

Gibbs-Duhem (1058152) | more than 3 years ago | (#34286610)

That is not true. It uses the aubio audio analysis library for beat detection, and uses puredata to make it easily extensible by anyone not scared of graphical programming languages.

This is not a light organ, or a VU meter.

The point is that *anyone* can go in and improve the puredata code to make it more awesome.

Wake me up... (2, Insightful)

Professr3 (670356) | more than 3 years ago | (#34284480)

... when this costs less than $800 per unit.

The code looks useful, but I'm getting paid $14 an hour. If I want to build RGB mood lighting for my house, I'm going to need a lot more than one unit. I can get 20 feet of RGB strip for $200, and they want $350 for a little 800-lumen flashlight board.

Re:Wake me up... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34284526)

800-lumens... is a little brighter than a flashlight you know?

Re:Wake me up... (1)

Professr3 (670356) | more than 3 years ago | (#34285308)

It's as bright as one standard 60-watt incandescent light bulb.

There are plenty of flashlights that put out 800 lumens - for example, the UltraFire WF-016 SSC-P7 is an LED flashlight that costs $30 and puts out 800 lumens.

Re:Wake me up... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34285592)

An Olight SR90 Intimidator puts out 2200 lumens.

Re:Wake me up... (3, Informative)

Gibbs-Duhem (1058152) | more than 3 years ago | (#34286330)

As the designer, we tried to take people like you into account. If you're willing to solder your own boards and deal with heat sinking on your own, you can buy bare boards and use the Digikey BOM we made available on the documentation page to make your own for perhaps $100-$200 not including whatever you value your time at.

There's also a 5% discount using the coupon code hobb123.

Feel free to join the development lists if you want to get more ideas about how to do a less expensive system. I certainly want one too... but most of the cheap RGB fixtures out there are, in my opinion, unhackable garbage. RGB strips are cool though, if you just want mood lighting.

w/r/t the comment below about 800 lumens being as bright as a standard 60W light bulb, I should point out why, although true, that's not actually a sane comparison.

First, the lights here is colored to start with. Take a 60W incandescent and filter out everything but red, and you have a very dim light.

Second, it is 800 lumens because we used royal blue (extremely pretty color) instead of standard blue. The difference in perceptible brightness, in my opinion and the opinion of everyone who has seen a side by side comparison, is that there is no difference. However, the conversion from lumens to watts declares that it is 200 lumens dimmer. I think that there is a serious flaw in the way we calculate bright-adjusted conversion factors.

Third, the light is focused into a tight cone, meaning we lose almost no light due to light going "up" into the fixture. In a standard 60W, you're spending about half your light illuminating the ceiling. We don't do that, so the lux (lumens per square meter) is much higher. Try looking directly into one of these lights for more than a second, and you'll understand the difference.

There is a difference between 60W from a white incandescent and a 800 lumen LED fixture. Yes, technically the number of lumens thrown out are the same, and it would be dumb to use the LED light to produce white light, but for colored light it is at least an order of magnitude brighter.

Re:Wake me up... (1)

Professr3 (670356) | more than 3 years ago | (#34287088)

Yeah, the requirements for stage/concert illumination are pretty intense, and I understand why those design considerations keep the price high. As I said, I'm excited about the code! I'd just benefit a lot more from something that costs $6 and runs over a CAN bus.

The LED strips need to be able to have each LED (or small set) controlled individually, for light shows, so my focus has to be on extremely cheap controllers and cost-effective LEDs. I'll definitely check out the development lists - maybe someone will have suggestions for me. Thanks for the response!

Re:Wake me up... (1)

Gibbs-Duhem (1058152) | more than 3 years ago | (#34287468)

I actually have lots of recommendations for doing cheap controllers for lower power LEDs =) I helped an extremely good friend of mine design several LED displays and have done a few myself. His design is extremely cool, although it took a lot of labor to do: []

Highly, highly, highly recommend the TLC5940 (or the most recent iteration in that line). Does onboard 12-bit PWM, 16 channels, and open drain so you can in principle run an arbitrary number of LEDs on it so long as the voltage difference between the last LED and the chip isn't too high. I don't like it for stuff like this spotlight because it's limited to 100mA per channel, and is a linear regulator. If I used something like that for my lights, they'd burn out really, really fast. However, for a LED strip, it's *perfect*.

You get to offload all the PWM that wastes CPU cycles better spent on harder tasks, operates off of a simple SPI bus, has 12-bit resolution, don't have to worry about aliasing the buck converter frequency with your PWM signal, and you can daisy chain them together to allow you to operate I think as many as 16*16 lights off of one SPI bus. It's crazy.

I have circuit designs for it if you'd like to work from them as an example. Just send me a note either on the development list, or directly to me at I also know lots of other people interested in similar projects. Here's one that Xander is doing that looks very similar to what you're describing: []

Anyway, I'm not a big enough fan of slashdot to post much more on here; feel free to send email though.

Re:Wake me up... (1)

leptons (891340) | more than 3 years ago | (#34286356)

I just got a 10 Watt RGB LED from ebay (from hong kong) in the mail, cost me $17. It provides 300 Lumens and is seriously intensely bright. Was easy to hook up with a few simple voltage regulators on a 12V supply. Multiply x 3 and you have 900 lumens for under $50. Just needs some cooling and PWM and there you go.

Re:Wake me up... (1)

Gibbs-Duhem (1058152) | more than 3 years ago | (#34286476)

Just needs some cooling and PWM and there you go.

Heh. That's cute.

Actually, FWIW I'm going to use the 40W version of that in the next version of this light. The cooling is a *serious* problem. Good luck. I doubt you can even turn the 10W one on for more than about 20 seconds before it melts.

Am looking forward to tackling it once I have some funding again though =) It should end up being about a 3000 lumen RGB fixture, but it's going to cost a lot more for me to make it. Have to switch to 1/2" aluminum back plate, put on fans potentially, etc, etc.

"fully open-source" is misleading (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34284534)

Parts of the project are licensed as "CC NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported ". This means you can't integrate it into your products. Suppose the GCC was licensed in the same way...

$800 ?! (3, Interesting)

Speare (84249) | more than 3 years ago | (#34284600)

Okay, I've done some Arduino stuff myself, and am familiar with the pricing on typical custom PCBs from Sparkfun. So I checked out the Saiko5 product page.

I mentally added up the custom wifi shield, the custom LED driver board, the LEDs, the Arduino itself, and thought damn, I bet they're gonna offer this for nearly a hundred bucks. Add on a rubber duck antenna, some wall wart or LIPO for power, and a basic case, and that's more like $150. Then I see the photos of heavy duty bomb-proof cases which appear to be machine-bent-then-anodized aluminum plate. Even 2mm plate is overkill and this looks a lot thicker. That's silly thick and heavy, even for stage pyrotechnics units, and it's gonna cost. There's no way I'd be interested in $200 for such a device, especially since they'd work best in grid/swarm configurations. The altogether price they offered was four times that, at $800. Even factoring for (1) niche market, (2) assembly disincentive [prefer DIY assembly], and (3) low count factory runs, this price is out of all sensibility.

Re:$800 ?! (1)

wramsdel (463149) | more than 3 years ago | (#34285664)

Unfortunately you left out 4) amortized development costs, 5) what the market will bear, and potentially 6) licensing costs. Consider the engineering work that goes into something like this...easily a few hundred engineer-hours. Now consider that the fully-burdened cost for a junior engineer is close to $100/hr. It goes up from there. So now we're talking in the mid-five figures before you sell unit 1. That's *just* labor. Care to add in ancillary costs? As for what the market will bear, there are LED luminaries on the market ranging in price from $500-ish to well over $1000. $800's not unreasonable there, assuming this is a comparable fixture. Finally, they may well be paying a stiff royalty to Color Kinetics. If you want to have anything to do with intensity-controlled LED lighting, chances are you're infringing on a Color Kinetics patent. They've locked up all the approaches that a reasonable engineer would consider trivial, and they defend their patents zealously. If I were these guys, there's no way I'd go near this without either paying the piper or spending considerable time with a patent lawyer (mo' money) to make sure I didn't get shut down after the first unit sold.

But you're right, it sure does look bomb-proof.

Re:$800 ?! (5, Informative)

Gibbs-Duhem (1058152) | more than 3 years ago | (#34286224)

Dear Speare,

As the person who designed the device and the case, I have to question your ability to do a valid cost analysis, but if you'd be interested in helping out with bringing the cost down we'd love to have you. You can join our hardware mailing list at Wramsdel is completely correct, I have to pay the initial software developers who spent hundreds of hours developing the base system so that it was in a usable state, and I think it's not terribly fair to argue that the thousand plus hours I put into design, prototyping, assembly, and programming is not valuable. This is a one-man shop, and it's taken me three years to get from my original light fixture covered on slashdot in 2008 ( [] ) to this one, and I can assure you that the time investment is well worth it in quality. These things are good enough to compete with CK light fixtures (although I still need to finish my DMX -> OSC converter, I'm kind of totally out of money at the moment though).

Most of the cost issue is that in small quantities *any* machining is expensive. Just having the 8 holes drilled and tapped into the aluminum piping was $17, for instance. If I was casting 1000 cases, and hiring FoxConn employees to assemble them, and not paying the software or hardware developers anything for their time, sure maybe the price could get down to $300, but $150 is crazy. The raw parts for the wifi module are $60 alone, not including any case whatsoever, nor the included arduino, nor the power supply, and so on.

Also, Wramsdel is completely correct that I have to license patents from CK/Philips to sell these, and although the agreement is confidential, the amount is not trivial (and took lawyer time and my time to make happen). Additionally, I am trying to sell these to clubs as well so that I can offer cheaper versions to hobbyists (see below for how to get them cheaper). They are comparable to CK fixtures of similar price and brightness, are easier to install and use, and have free software to make them actually do things, as opposed to spending another $3k on control hardware and software.

In any case, my goal with this is to get the price down to the point where I would happily buy lots of them. Since I'm poor, the only way I can do that is to get orders for enough of them that I can drop the price. Suggesting, however, that the price should be the cost of the components alone is unreasonable for any sane business. I want to be able to do this for a living and as a community service, not as a community service alone.

In any case, since I want to get this off the ground so I can drop the price, I will point out a few things that you can do to drop the price.

  1. Buy the kit and build it yourself. My time is valuable (believe it or not), and I happily designed the product offering to be such that you could buy *everything* that you need to build your own, minus a screwdriver, for $680. I have a (hard) day job, and I'll pay top dollar for your time in doing it yourself.
  2. Use our hacker coupon code - hobb123. 5% discount. More than that I can't really support right now, since I need to get about $30k in order to build a full run of 100 lights.
  3. If you're really strapped for cash, buy the bare boards, and use the bills of materials which I *made fully downloadable from the site*, upload those to digikey, and source your own parts. Use the instructions I wrote for how to lay down the solder paste, place the components, and trivially reflow solder them on a hot plate. You won't have a case, but it sounds like you can surely manufacture your own, buy a power supply, and buy an arduino or whatever control board you like for $50. Go for it. If you just want raw component costs, excluding arduino and power supply and case, you can probably do it for $200 ($33 each special) or maybe even under $150 if you build a lot of them. Even better, you can put on your own colors of LEDs! I used red, green, and royal blue... you could use warm, cold, and neutral white for a temperature controlled white fixture, or use a bunch of red channels with a single cyan to make an amazing grow light. This is a hacker project after all!
  4. I reiterate that a large part of the point of this project is that it is *highly modular*. If you wanted to use the controller with a different LED light, you can. If you want to use the light with your own cheaper controller, you can. If you just want to design your own system and set up the API to accept our well documented OSC packet format, you can use our software to control it.

    But seriously, feel free to join the hardware dev list if you want to help. It's an open project.

Re:$800 ?! (1)

kukulcan (1440401) | more than 3 years ago | (#34286870)

+1 interesting Wish i had mod points...

Re:$800 ?! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34287438)

"Additionally, I am trying to sell these to clubs.."

- Dude, no offense, but I *buy* these things for clubs.

For $800, I can add pan & tilt, DMX compatability (a feature of which we are fond), and get a full guarantee.

Not to mention the fact that I would get *three* of them for the price of one of yours, with a third of the features.

Dont get me wrong, respect to your project and all that, and, while I uterly appreciate the reasons for it being so, the price remains ridiculous, as is presenting this as "affordable", sorry!

Python (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34284616)

The python script:

import musicAnalyser

Disco lights! (1)

Silpher (1379267) | more than 3 years ago | (#34284636)

Disco lights... wow.. amazing

LEDs! (1)

Oceanplexian (807998) | more than 3 years ago | (#34284700)

This is pretty cool, and definitely something I want to roll throw together at home. That said, isn't this supposed to be MIT?

Where's all the anti-gravity, Terawatt laser, and nuclear fusion experiments? This is a beginner Arduino project you might find on instructables. Awesome project, but come on MIT guys, we want more!

Re:LEDs! (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34284884)

the power electronics involved here aren't trivial. it was designed from scratch. 800 lumens is burn-your-eyes-out bright, not some piddly 5mm LED-blinker project you find on Instructables.

Re:LEDs! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34285876)

800 lumens is the focused output of a 60W incandescant bulb, like put a 60W bulb in a reflector fixture. Not exactly scary - though the point sources will be pretty bright.

Re:LEDs! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34285882)

So two visits to google gives me:

(1) 800 lumens is a little bit less than a 60 watt incandescent bulb. I don't know what cave you live in, but that's not burn your eyes out bright.

(2) LEDs are typically more efficient than incandescent bulbs, so we're talking less than 60 watts. In fact, you can get an 800 lumen, 12 watt LED bulb for about $40.

So, let me get this straight.... (1)

Hasai (131313) | more than 3 years ago | (#34284866)

....They re-invented the disco ball?

New dog, old tricks (2, Interesting)

Sarten-X (1102295) | more than 3 years ago | (#34284998)

That's it? When I read "high powered", I was expecting switching 500-amp supplies to banks of flood lights. I wasn't expecting... this.

This is the same stuff that hobbyists [] and others [] have been doing for years. Their lights also perform outdoors, in occasional high winds, at extreme temperatures. The only thing that MIGHT be interesting here is the music analysis program, if it's capable of picking up actual musical qualities, rather than just levels of noise.

Wow... (1)

bradgoodman (964302) | more than 3 years ago | (#34285054)

If that was the best demo they could come up with for this...I've seen better products like that at Radio Shack and Sharper Image...

I've been working on something similar... (3, Informative)

allanw (842185) | more than 3 years ago | (#34285248)

Shamelessly linking my own blog here: []

The board is in Arduino shield form factor and it can drive RGB 700mA LED's of any voltage up to 30V. It has an onboard micro that communicates with I2C that allows you to dim the channels without having to do the PWM on the host micro. This is optional, and there will be cheaper versions that just takes in PWM input signals directly.

It seems like all these high power LED stuff is way overpriced. I designed this after seeing Sparkfun selling a similar board for $50! And now this, which costs at least $290 for a bare board.

I haven't gotten around to finishing it yet but I intend to sell these boards for only $25 for the basic feature version.

Re:I've been working on something similar... (1)

Gibbs-Duhem (1058152) | more than 3 years ago | (#34286708)

As the designer of this light fixture, I would love to have you participate in the project... I used the LM3404 for PWM control because of heat sinking issues, but I do prefer using an external chip for PWM signal generation. For this project though it just seemed like overkill since the Arduino has PWM outputs set up already.

I'd be happy to try to work with you to either drop the price of our stuff, make your stuff work more effectively, and so on. It's supposed to be an open project after all =)

Competition in open hacker projects is kind of silly. Pool resources, etc, etc. Right now the reason that board is so expensive is largely because I'm not making quantities large enough to bring down the price.

Re:I've been working on something similar... (1)

allanw (842185) | more than 3 years ago | (#34286866)

I did look into the LM3404 but I couldn't figure out how to set its current with a wide input voltage range.

The HV9918 I picked is ridiculously cheap at only $1 a chip. For my project the LED driver chip was the main BOM cost. For you it probably wouldn't reduce costs by much. Unfortunately my board has some high EMI emissions despite its extremely compact layout which I haven't been able to figure out. Then again, one of my other switching power supplies also had mysterious EMI so it could just be my layout skills.

I feel bad that the slashdotters have been pretty critical of your project. The cost is understandable as selling small quantities of these projects at near parts cost definitely does not make up for development time. Which is why I've decided to just sell them at cost in terms of labor which of course isn't feasible in the long run. But designing a product is something I enjoy doing so I don't mind.

Re:I've been working on something similar... (1)

Gibbs-Duhem (1058152) | more than 3 years ago | (#34287186)

Oh... um, send me a note offline and I can help you design a LM3404HV that will take up to 72VDC and provide a stable 700mA output. National Semiconductor has some nice simulation tools to deal with it. Did you try using those and were still unable to get it to work well? I'd also mention that the current varying between 650 and 750mA depending on input voltage isn't *that* bad of a scenario. Generally an end user can't tell the difference anyway, especially with the dramatically different LED efficiency bins you can buy. I went with the most efficient LEDs because I like nice things =)

Slashdotters are always critical, especially of MIT alums. I'm used to failing at things, whereas most slashdotters don't bother doing something unless they're guaranteed success. *shrug* Guess who's more likely to actually make something useful in the long run? God knows I learn an awful lot more from taking on a lot of very hard challenges and doing my best, succeed or fail, than any armchair engineer. Despite being a physicist and material scientist working on catalysts for renewable energy, I had no problem jumping into and being wildly successful with designing ultra-high frequency digitally controlled PID feedback loops (literally a 5MHz response time), building these and similar LED lights, and so on. I just didn't have the pleasure of taking classes on it, or working at a company doing electronics design so I had to teach it all to myself over the last four years. I think that regardless of what armchair engineers might think, teaching yourself something in your spare time and doing it well enough to produce useful things is not bringing shame on the institvte. The funniest comments are from the people bashing my EE skills. Usually, the solutions they lay out are not workable in a reasonable real world system, once you think it all through. It's sort of like those hilarious comments where someone brings up "what if gravity doesn't work" in a thread about GR. Seriously? Or mentioning basic statistical analysis and sample bias as the "reason" why a 3 year study is wrong. Gee, who do you think knows more about statistical analysis... I can't imagine they tried to account for things that you learn about in high school math...

Anyway, I am serious about collaborating... at the least, my site has some publicity now, would be happy to help sell things, and would be happy to be a sounding board for new ideas as well. I personally checked out the existing hobbyist offerings at sparkfun and also found them to be overpriced and annoying to use. However, there is definitely a place for discrete controllers and chained rebel star boards. It's just not in a quasi-professional lighting fixture that I'm (actually) expecting to make a lot more money from selling to clubs than to hobbyists.

You know what would be awesome -- check out the new 40W RGBA LEDs from ledengin. That's what I plan to use in my next fixture, after I make back enough money (hopefully) from this to design new stuff. I want to put three of them in each light, and use the same power electronics. The hard part is fitting those huge optics and dealing with heat sinking... I might end up having to use active cooling if I want it in the same 5" cylinder form factor (which I do!). But, if I can solve that, which I think I can, I have a 3000 lumen fixture in a tiny size! Awesomeness. Naturally, too expensive for slashdot to approve; surely they could do it for $40 due to my idiocy, but whatever... daddy needs new brake lights for his car...


Arduino? Yawn. (2, Informative)

Bassman59 (519820) | more than 3 years ago | (#34285438)

I'm so tired of non-engineers puffing up the lame Arduino platform. Why bother with Arduino when you can get a Silicon Labs 8051 board, with an excellent USB JTAG dongle, for a hundred bucks? You can't buy the debugger for the AVR for that.

Re:Arduino? Yawn. (1)

allanw (842185) | more than 3 years ago | (#34285502)

How often does one need a JTAG debugger anyway? You can do plenty without one.

Re:Arduino? Yawn. (1)

Bassman59 (519820) | more than 3 years ago | (#34285724)

How often does one need a JTAG debugger anyway? You can do plenty without one.

I tend to use it all the time. Beats the pants off of adding a resource-using monitor, or trying to blink LEDs, or spit things out the serial port, or whatever.

Sure, if you're God's own programmer, you don't need a debugger, but us mortals like to use it when things don't go as expected.

Re:Arduino? Yawn. (1)

JoeMerchant (803320) | more than 3 years ago | (#34285912)

Silly mortals, wasting your puny lives on the time sink of debugging when you could be doing something real instead.

Re:Arduino? Yawn. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34285838)

8051? This processor is as old as bacteria... useful for some but It can't measure with AVR by any means. The instruction set is making even simple operation (say a=b;) tens instructions long, and these usually are 4 clocks per instruction. Dog slow by architecture and implementation.

Re:Arduino? Yawn. (1)

Gibbs-Duhem (1058152) | more than 3 years ago | (#34286410)

As the person who made that design choice, it was because I want to make it accessible to hobbyists with minimal electronics experience. I'm not a moron, I have done work with FPGAs, and plenty of work with integrated atmels and PICs (as you can see from my older projects at []

Don't worry, if I was targeting clubs I'd do it all on an FPGA with a built in network stack and hardware PWM outputs. But that's a lot harder, and no beginners would be able to use it. We probably still *will* do that. But the development time is a lot greater, and I'd rather help beginners make some cool stuff over making money. Development time is a pretty serious constraint given that this is a project done as a hobby... I still have a 40-60 hour a week "real" job, so if I can do it with an arduino in 100 hours versus an FPGA in 200 hours, it's a no brainer at present.

Re:Arduino? Yawn. (1)

keefus_a (567615) | more than 3 years ago | (#34287036)

That's funny. Because I'm so tired of engineers puffing up their own egos by downing the Arduino. I'm smart enough to know that there are far more elegant, powerful solutions than an Arduino for almost every possible situation. But I'm not educated enough to use them. Arduino is easy and accessible. Don't underestimate how attractive those qualities are for someone who simply wants a challenging hobby.

I thought you said high powered (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34285606)

12 rebels is absolutely fuckall as anyone involved in the LED lighting industry can tell you. Also, that led arrangement is quite horrid and will produce some nasty hotspots in the light it throws.

A little spastic... (1)

thePowerOfGrayskull (905905) | more than 3 years ago | (#34285956)

The software is a little spastic with the lighting. Seriously, if my lighting were that twitchy back when I did stage lighting for various bands, I never would have gotten a second gig.

Re:A little spastic... (1)

Gibbs-Duhem (1058152) | more than 3 years ago | (#34286440)

The spasticity is entirely controlled by an open source puredata patch. Even a non-programmer could tune it until they like the behavior. I happen to like it as is =)

Feel free to join the music analysis development list at [] if you want to make it work better. You'll find that it's designed to make the barrier to entry minimal. I literally wrote the music analysis software in 45 minutes after the python server was done.

failzo6Rs (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34286052)

corpse turned over dim. Due to the too, can be a Supplies to private around are in neeAd watershed essay, much as Windows towels on the floor the goodwill significantly

This is what MIT engineers are doing?! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34286872)

Weak sauce!

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