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pxlBlck - An unobtrusive home information display

A multifunctional home display and optical notification system for everyone

FabFab
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pxlBlck is the basis for a home display system. The aim is to unobtrusively integrate displays into living spaces without drawing too much attention to them. As soon as the resident is to be informed of new information, the displays are activated and provide information via icons, scrolling texts or tones.

This is also a way to enable people with hearing impairments to be visually notified of, for example, a doorbell, social media notifications (e.g whatsapp, facebook, ...), call notifications on mobile and landline and much more.

pxlBlck is a basis for a smartHome indication system. Several software and Hardware options are available. Thanks to the ESPEasy interface the devices can be automated wihtout the need of external automation-software. In combination with external automation-software (e.g. NodeRed, MQTT server) it is also possible to display several notifications like doorbell, social media notifications (e.g whatsapp, facebook, ...), call notifications on mobile and landline, etc.

Every pxlBlck can be eqipped with several sensors. So it is also possible to measure different environment data, forward this data via wifi and/or react to this measured data.

Short overview:

  • System for displaying notifications in the SmartHome
  • Software is based on an ESPEasy plugin
  • Runs on an ESP8266 or ESP32
  • Display of notifications via an LED matrix and/or sound module
  • Various LED matrices supported
  • Different animations can be displayed
  • Can also be used as a basis for various sensors in the SmartHome
  • Display of user-defined icons possible
  • Display of time is possible during "standBy"

More detailed overview here: https://nerdiy.de/en/pxlblck/

Future goals:

In the following I would like to list and explain a few of the future goals for my pxlBlck project.

  • Simplify structure
    I would like to create an app so that the construction and, above all, the programming and configuration of the pxlBlck's is easier. It should be able to program and configure the pxBlck easily. In the ideal case even without the need of a computer.
  • Implement features for people with hearing impairments
    At this point I would like to be honest that I did not have this use case as my goal from the very beginning. But during the development, I noticed that the pxlBlck's can also be used as an optical notification device. Especially people with hearing impairments are unable to hear, for example, the doorbell or the phone ringing. A pxlBlck in every room or in special places could indicate these events optically. As an alternative to commercial systems, I would like to equip the pxlBlck system with these features.
  • GroupWare status display
    Due to the corona pandemic, I (like probably many others) was confronted with the challenges of the home office. Online meetings quickly became part of everyday life and of course the day came when I sat in silence at my desk with the microphone activated and my girlfriend walked into the room talking. By the time I deactivated my microphone, my work colleagues had of course heard the first sentences. Not a big problem in itself, of course, but later we joked that something like an "on-air" display could be usefull to avoid such situations. Like a tiny display that signals when you are in a meeting. Only later I thought, "Wait a minute, something like that can also be made possible with the pxlBlcks. All that is needed is a little bit of software that controls the pxlBlck accordingly." So I want to make this possible as well. :)

Of course, a few more challenges have to be solved before then. If you have any further ideas or suggestions, please leave me a comment. :)

History: Initially, the pxlBlck consisted of an 8x8 WS2812 aka Neopixel LED matrix (looks like a block of pixels. Hence the name :)), powered by an ESP8266 and related software.

The purpose of this was to create a simple way of keeping me up to date on the events in my SmartHome.

It kind of bothered me that I collect all kinds of data with my SmartHome, but that I rarely see this data. For example, I was informed on my smartphone when the doorbell rang. But what if I don't have my cell phone with me (directly) at the moment (which can happen at home)? (Granted: A little luxury problem for me, but for people with hearing impairments this is a real problem.)

So I was looking for an easy way to get information about current events in the SmartHome. In the ideal case, this type of "SmartHome event indicator" would also be so cheap and discreet that I can equip every room with it.

... Read more »

  • MAX98357 I2S Class D amplifier test

    Fab06/02/2021 at 16:23 0 comments

    This section of the pxlBlck_multiPCB is literally self-explaining. :D

    On the first revision of the PCB I was already able to test the 3W I2S DAC. The MAX98357 I2S Class D amplifier is connected to the ESP32 via I2S. MP3s can be played from the inserted micro SD card, web radio can be streamed or text can be read aloud. 

    The goal is that the pxlBlcks will soon also be able to play audio data. For example, you could be informed acoustically about events in your Home. Alternatively, you could also play a web radio stream in this way. :)

    In the following video I did a little test with the Google TTS engine.

  • The pxlBlck_multiPCB

    Fab05/31/2021 at 15:31 0 comments

    After the first revision, many tests and a few anxious minutes, in which I thought my T-962 reflow oven had grilled all 100 WS2812 3535 LEDs on the pxlBlck_multiPCB, I was able to put my current pxlBlck project into operation.

    With the pxlBlck_multiPCB I try to accommodate the pxlBlck typical functions on a compact PCB.

    For this purpose, a 10x10 LED matrix made of WS2812 3535 LEDs is installed on the front of the board. As usual, animations, icons, scrolling texts and other notifications can be displayed on this.

    An ESP32 Wrover-B including programming circuit and USB-C connection is installed on the back.

    The built-in sensors can also be used to read humidity, temperature, air pressure, brightness, UV index, 12 touch electrodes and acceleration values / orientation. In addition, additional sensors can be connected via the #qwiic connection.

    The built-in 3W I2S DAC also works. MP3 files can be played via the integrated micro SD card slot or as an audio stream via WiFi.

    Another WS2812 LED strip can be connected via the #Stemma 3pin connector. In this way you could (for example) set up a kind of "Ambilight".

    I also installed soldering pads to connect finished Neopixel matrices. So you can connect and properly fuse them (3A fuse) to the PCB in case you want to use other matrix sizes.

    Thanks to the USB-C connection, the connected matrix can also be supplied with up to 15W power. :)

  • The pxlBlck_CassetteLamp

    Fab05/31/2021 at 14:59 0 comments

    The pxlBlck_CassetteLamp is another platform that is also based on the pxlBlck plugin. 

    The plug-in controls the 32 LEDs long LED strip that is built into the lamp. So of course no icons can be displayed for it, but the usual animations. :)

    More infos are available here: https://nerdiy.de/en/howto-pxlblck-pxlblck_cassettelamp-aufbauen/ or here:https://hackaday.io/project/178225-pxlblckcassettelamp

    or in the video and pictures below. :)

  • Build guide for pxlBlck_RingClock

    Fab05/31/2021 at 14:52 0 comments

    Hey guys,

    the article on the construction of the pxlBlck_RingClock is available at the following link. The RingClock is very similar to the pxlBlck_SlotClock. Only that the frame is a little more filigree. There is also the option to integrate an RTC in the housing of the RingClock. So the clock can also be operated without a time source via NTP or even wifi. :) Only downside in this case: Of course without wifi it wouldnt be able to receive and display notifications.

    Build article is available here: https://nerdiy.de/en/howto-pxlblck-die-pxlblck_ringclock-aufbauen/

  • pxlBlck_8x8 build article

    Fab05/31/2021 at 14:47 0 comments

    Hey guys,

    Apart from the pxlBlck_pot and pxlBLck_SlotClock there is another member of the pxlBlck family: the pxlBlck_8x8 This uses an 8x8 WS2812 LED matrix to display icons and animations and is powered by an ESP8266 as well. So you can use the complete range of functions of ESPEasy again.

    Due to the limited display resolution, it was not so easy to find a clock face with which you can show both hours and minutes simultaneously on the display. The clock face shown now shows the number of hours by means of the large visible number. The minutes are shown by means of the displayed pixels. The display consists of 8x8 = 64 pixels. So the pixels in the corners of the square are not used to display the minutes. Reading down to the minute is unfortunately not as fast / intuitive with this dial as with the dials for the larger LED matrixes, but you can at least roughly estimate how far the hour has progressed (or not). : D

    If you have any other ideas for a clock face on such a small LED matrix, I look forward to your comment. :)

    The full build article incl. material list ist available here: https://nerdiy.de/en/howto-pxlblck-pxlblck_8x8-aufbauen/

    And of course some pictures following. :)

    Overview of some example icons. (Yes the instagram-icon needs a little redesign. :D)

  • The first two hardware plattforms: pxlBlck_SlotClock & pxlBlck_Pot

    Fab05/31/2021 at 14:43 0 comments

    Please see the first two hardware platforms of the pxlBlck family. :)

    pxlBlck_Pot

    The pxlBlck_Pot is basically a 3D printed flower planter. A 32×8 WS2812 LED matrix can be inserted into this. The whole functionality of the pxlBlck can thus be invisibly integrated into a flower pot.

    The LED matrix cannot be seen when it is not switched on. The display is only visible on the outside when the LEDs are activated.

    More info incl. detailed build log and material list is available here: https://nerdiy.de/en/howto-pxlblck-pxlblck_pot-aufbauen/

    pxlBlck_SlotClock

    The pxlBlck_SlotClock consists of a 1×60 LED matrix. It can display the time in the same way as an analog clock. The colors of the individual hands can be adjusted. Hour markers can also be displayed. This makes orientation and reading the time a little easier. :)

    Animations can also be shown on the LED display to provide information about events.

    More info incl. detailed build log and material list is available here: https://nerdiy.de/en/howto-pxlblck-pxlblck_slotclock-aufbauen/

    pxlBlck_Pot
    pxlBlck_Pot
    pxlBlck_SlotClock
    pxlBlck_SlotClock

  • Design icons, transfer them to the pxlBlck and display them

    Fab05/31/2021 at 14:31 0 comments

    Another article is available on my blog. This describes how the icons can be created using the .PPM format and uploaded to the SPIFFS of the pxlBlck.

    The icons can then be displayed on the pxlBlck. You can use different fade-in and fade-out effects and also display an associated scrolling text. :)

    All of this can be triggered using the (for ESPEasy) typical commands via MQTT, UDP or HTTP requests. So the whole thing can be controlled and triggered very well from the well-known SmartHome system. :)

    The article is available here: https://nerdiy.de/en/howto-pxlblck-icons-designen-auf-den-pxlblck-uebertragen-und-anzeigen/

    Sorry for the bad video quality. Really tricky to film something with such a high contrast. :/ Any tipps about how to film that properly are really welcome. :)

  • pxlBlck – Configure watch faces and screensavers

    Fab05/31/2021 at 14:22 0 comments

    I also managed to create a few first tutorials. This one explains how you can set and configure the various clock faces and screensavers. You can see a small overview of the individual clock faces and animations here. :)

    Here is the tutorial: https://nerdiy.de/en/howto-pxlblck-ziffernblaetter-und-bildschirmschoner-konfigurieren/

    Some examples are visible in the following videos. Of course most of them look cooler in reality. Sadly, my camera has problems to display the partly huge contrasts and colors in general properly. :/

  • Install and configure the pxlBlck plugin

    Fab05/31/2021 at 14:18 0 comments

    In addition to a few other articles, I have published an article to explain the installation and configuration of the pxlBlck plugin.

    A small feature that I'm a little proud of (not because it's special, but because I've worked on it for a long time) is the color picker with which you can set the different colors of the screensaver or clock faces. The color can be set directly in the web menu of the ESPEasy plug-in and you don't have to enter RGB values manually (which is still possible). :)

    The full article is available here: https://nerdiy.de/en/howto-pxlblck-das-pxlblck-plugin-installieren-und-konfigurieren/

  • Git-Repository published

    Fab05/31/2021 at 14:05 0 comments

    In the meantime the pxlBlck-repository is filled with all the information you need to build your own pxlBlck. :)
    It includes the pxlBlck-plugin (for ESPEasy) and the needed STL files for the first kinds of pxlBlcks. More information will follow. :)

    Link to the repository is here: https://github.com/Nerdiyde/pxlBlck

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Discussions

Dan Maloney wrote 05/26/2021 at 18:57 point

An idea: make the blocks connectable with magnets so you can build arrays to make even bigger displays.

  Are you sure? yes | no

Fab wrote 05/31/2021 at 14:28 point

Cool idea, thanks. I'm working right now on a PCB that should contain all the needed features. Should be possible to add some connectors there to easy daisy chain them together. :)

  Are you sure? yes | no

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