|Cool, our interactive LED coffee tables got a mention in the October issue of Popular Science!|
What’s an interactive LED coffee table? (Funny you should ask….) It’s a coffee table that has hundreds of LEDs in the top surface that respond to motion above the table. We have (finally) put together a movie to give you a better idea of how they respond to their environment. You can see the movie on YouTube or watch it embedded:
Since we first showed these off, we have had a lot of inquiries about how you can make your own table like this. We are now producing (very large) electronic soldering kits so that you indeed can make your own.
The new tables are designed to look really great whether or not you can see the LEDs. The wooden bases are elegant and attractive, and also if you go up to one and touch it, it will respond by pleasantly lighting up in that area. The tables are designed to respond in a subtle and gentle fashion to stimulus provided by human interaction. They are normally dim and constant– the most you’ll see in a dark room is a faint glow of twinkling like the night sky. When you set your glass down on the table, however, the table “sees” the motion that induces a slow ripple starting in that location that spreads out to other areas of the table as it dissipates. The overall effect is a bit like touching a pool of water, in that your local disturbance turns into an overall gentle rippling, and eventually settles down. It is decidedly not a disco floor– there is no blinking, no programmed oscillations, or for that matter, any digital electronics at all– the circuitry is completely analog to improve aesthetics and reduce eyestrain.
We love the goal of the Anew Nature furniture makers out of St. Louis. Anew Nature is a modern furniture producer that offers training, employment, and hope to marginalized men, with criminal backgrounds to help integrate into the work force. We also think it’s pretty cool that they’re using our Interactive LED Panels in their … Continue reading A new Interactive LED Table
We were sent a picture of handsome cat Gandalf with an array of green Octolively kits all built up. Mr. Pumpernickel also looks great in the green glow. Both Gandalf and Mr. Pumpernickel are continuing in a longstanding tradition of cats and interactive LEDs. Harley Cat (who passed away a few years ago) helped test … Continue reading Interactive LED Cats
Octolively is an all-new, open source interactive LED surface kit that we’re releasing today. Octolively features high resolution– an independent motion sensor for every LED, stand-alone operation, a variety of response functions, and easy scaling for large grids.
Octolively represents our fourth generation of interactive LED surfaces.
Long-time readers might recall the original Interactive LED Dining Table, the infamous Interactive LED Coffee Tables, or the third-generation, not-very-creatively-named Interactive LED Panels. All of these surfaces were based on fully-analog circuitry with large circuit boards and a fairly high ratio of LEDs to sensors– typically 20:1.Octolively, by contrast, is based on smaller, lower-cost circuit board modules, “only” 4×8 inches in size. Part of the reason for this is so that there’s more flexibility in making arbitrarily shaped arrays. Arrays can now be as skinny as 4″ wide, or as wide as you like. Each module features 8 LEDs and 8 independent proximity sensors– one for each and every LED. The LEDs are (huge) 10 mm types, and that chip in the middle of the board is an (also huge) ATmega164 microcontroller.
Each sensor consists of an infrared LED and phototransistor pair, which– together with polling and readout from the microcontroller –acts as reflective motion sensor. The LEDs are spaced on a 2-inch grid, and the edge connectors allow boards to be tiled seamlessly. Because the circuit is now primarily digital, it’s easy to store a variety of response functions in the microcontroller. Our standard firmware contains 8 different response functions– fades, ripples, shadows and sparkles, which you can change with a button press. As it’s an open source project, we’ll expect that (in time), others will become available as well. click through to YouTube.) on the product page.
I never really set out with the goal of roasting my own coffee beans, it just kind of happened.
It started a month ago when we got a coffee grinder. Naturally we started getting whole bean coffee, which we used at a rate of about one pound per week. While I’m not (by any standards) a coffee connoisseur, I found myself noticing that the first pot of coffee out of the new can really was just better than the last pot of coffee out of the old can– meaning that the coffee quality does actually decline noticeably after just a week.
Now, that’s a minor annoyance, and hardly cause for action. But, two weekends ago I happened to be browsing in a home brewing store (needed champagne yeast– that’s another story) where there were sealed bags of green coffee beans just sitting there on the shelf. Fair trade, organic, and in a number of varieites. Only 5 bucks a pound. So what the heck, right?
It turns out that there’s a common and cheap method of roasting coffee at home: using a regular air popcorn maker. You put the beans in the popper as though they were popcorn kernels, heat them for a few minutes until they’re properly roasted, and then cool them. (You can read the details of this process here, here, here, and here, amongst other places.) This is kind of neat because it doesn’t take much in the way of equipment and it roasts just enough for a big pot of coffee.
The weak point in the popper method is the cooling. The beans keep roasting as long as they are still hot, so many of the sites suggest pouring the beans back and forth between a couple of metal colanders until they cool down. We tried it, and while it did cool them faster than a cookie sheet, it was more tedious than fun. It also seemed a bit silly to use this nice semi-automatic roaster and then turn it over to a manual process for the next few minutes. So, here is our better (if somewhat obvious) solution: a dedicated coffee cooling tower, built from a second modified air popper.
|This is our dining table. We built it because we needed a new dining table, and I guess we’re just that kind of people. It has a frosted glass top lit by 448 multicolored LEDs that respond, in a complex and gentle fashion, to input generated by motion above the table while we eat.|
|It’s a busy week at the labs here. We’re getting ready for Maker Faire this weekend in San Mateo, CA– the biggest, baddest, and most awesomest DIY festival of the year.|
We’ll be showcasing an updated version of our mechanical Pong game. We’ve added a curved playing field, new user-friendly knobs, and a host of other improvements that we’ll plan to write about at a later date. We hope you’ll come by and try it out–we’ll be on the west side of the Expo hall.
Some of the other projects that we’ve taken to Maker Faire in the last few years include our Interactive LED Dining Table, CandyFab, Bristlebots, Interactive LED Coffee Table, Peggy 2, and Meggy Jr RGB.
We’re also participating in the Open Source Hardware Panel, on Saturday at 1 pm at the Innovation Stage at the south end of the Expo Hall.
We’ll have much more to say about this later, but we’re thrilled to announce our new collaboration with
Bruce Shapiro, Ben Trombley, and Brian Schmalz. While we’re demonstrating the Tabletop-Pong game, Bruce and friends will be giving a sneak peek at the results of our collaboration: a fantastic new version of the Eggbot kit, which we are preparing for release as an open source kit sometime this summer.
You can sign up here for more info about the kit, and you can try out the Eggbots– or just see them in action –in the center of the Expo Hall.
Lastly, to help get everyone else in the DIY mood, we’re having a DIY Fever sale over at the store, with 20% off of Evil Mad Science open-source kit favorites such as the Larson Scanner, Meggy Jr RGB and the Bulbdial Clock, and 10% off of everything else!
Happy hacking, and we’ll hope to see you all at the Faire!
| Attention SF Bay Area folks: Evil Mad Scientist Laboratories and CandyFab are coming to Maker Faire! Space-time coordinates: San Mateo, CA, May 3-4, 2008. |
We’ll be there in force with (amongst other things) a tabletop BristleBot Arena and great progress to show off on a lot of our upcoming projects: Next generation interactive LED coffee table panels, the debut of Peggy 2.0, and the brand new design for the CandyFab 5000, all of which we’ll be writing much more about this summer. Find us in the south hall, past the Tesla coils.
Great things are coming to Maker Faire, and you can come visit, get a sneak preview and chat.
Time to make some LED Micro-Readerboards as ornaments for your tree this year? Watch the short video introduction to see what they do: display a message one character at a time.