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Glass Block LED Matrix, controlled outdoors via tablet

October 13th, 2011

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Short version: Using an Android tablet, you can draw things on our Glass Block LED Matrix from the street, and it’s pretty awesome. Video here, photos here.

Long version:

Things have progressed recently on the Glass Block LED Matrix which Chris Davis and Paul Vincent started. For a couple weeks, the code was already in place to let Processing talk to it via simple serial commands to the Arduino & ShiftBrite shield. We wanted to use the tools from Project Blinkenlights to control things over the network; while this didn’t entirely work as planned, the project offered a lot of ideas and inspiration.

The most recent addition I made was the inclusion of oscP5 to the Processing sketch to let it listen for OSC (Open Sound Control) messages. As it happens, a brilliant piece of free software already exists (Control from Charlie Roberts) which turns Android/iOS devices into control surfaces that send out OSC messages. On top of this, Control comes with a handful of example UIs, one of them being “Multibutton Demo” which provides a UI with an 8×8 button grid, sort of like a monome. (The tablet in all of the photos is running Control with that Multibutton Demo UI.)

As our LED matrix is 7×8, this UI was a good initial match. I set Control’s destination URL/port to the backend machine that was running Processing, set the sketch to parse the pretty simple OSC messages Control would send out at every button toggle, and then I was able to control what was on the LED matrix by drawing on that 8×8 grid on my tablet.

I finally got to show it off outside on Tuesday evening when it was dark, and it’s working pretty well, as the video shows.

Next steps:

  • Making a Control UI that allows for color control. These are RGB LEDs, after all – we can control intensity and color, not just whether they’re on or off.
  • Making this web-enabled. I think Control allows this?
  • Fixing the glitchiness that I didn’t show in the video; something cryptic is going on on the Arduino side.

Check out the github project here and the project wiki page here.

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