Diffused LED Strip Sign With Arduino/Bluetooth

I created this sign for the DJ booth at the 8th annual Interactive Show at my local hackerspace, NYC Resistor. The theme this year was The Running Man, the chintzy 1987 sci-fi movie, which takes place in the year 2017. The sign is built from foamcore board and the pixel strip inside is diffused with plain printer paper. The sign’s colors and animations can be controlled with a phone/tablet app over bluetooth.

This Instructable  details the construction, programming, and use of this simple sign using Arduino and the Adafruit Feather Bluefruit 32u4 microcontroller and its companion Bluefruit LE Connect app for iOS/Android. You could easily scale back the wireless control aspect and use an Arduino Uno and a physical switch to change the animation, as in my free introductory Arduino Class, or control the sign from the internet by switching the microcontroller for a wifi board like the Feather Huzzah ESP8266, which you can learn to do in my free Internet of Things Class.

Desert X Art Vlog

Last month I went on vacation to southern California, and had the privilege of checking out some of the pieces in the Desert X art show in the Coachella Valley near Palm Springs. The large scale dreamy works in this show were scattered about, and finding them was almost like a scavenger hunt. I’ve heard that some of the works are now closed due to vandalism, so I wanted to share my favorites with you here.
The first piece we saw was Hollow Earth by Glenn Kaino. After texting a phone number listed on the website, we were sent a code to enter a small wooden shack on some undeveloped property at the edge of a golf course. Instructions inside described how to turn on the inverter, so presumably there’s a solar panel on the roof. The power lights up a gigantic infinity mirror in the floor of the shack, which was otherwise dark and suffocatingly hot. Standing on the mirror made it feel as though the tunnel went on forever, to the other side of the world. The illusion is broken once outside, however, since the shack sits upon blocks and you can see right under it. So it is kinda like a magic trick. The giant LEDs along the inside of the mirror only stayed on for a few seconds at a time, and we wondered if that was intentional or some kind of glitch. Still I really liked this piece.

The next piece we visited was The Circle of Land and Sky by Phillip K Smith III, comprised of a ring of 300 mirrored square posts driven into the sand. Walking around and through it blends up a hashed reflection of the scene behind you and in front of you, but at an angle so as to mix, well, land and sky. It reminded me of a desert version of that mirrored fence at Storm King. It’s supposed to look killer at sunset, but I liked it just fine at midday anyway, even if it was a bit harsh out for my ginger complexion.
The last piece I’ll show you is Mirage by Doug Aitken. This is a mirrored funhouse atop a housing development construction site in Palm Springs. We had a heck of a time getting up to the place because of some surly security staff and miscommunicated hours, but finally persuaded a guard to let us go up the next morning. There was nobody there but a docent with a people-counter, which made me wonder why the other pieces weren’t staffed as well. The house indeed looks like a mirage, vacillating between completely blending in with its surroundings and amplifying them in impossible ways. The illusion in photos is mind bending. In video and in person, it’s just plain cool. Smokey and I enjoyed finding the best angles around the house to blend land and sky.

So those were my three favorite pieces from Desert X. Thanks for coming along with me!