Halloween Blinky Eyes

An addressable LED strip animation -- spooky eyes appear, blink, and fade away. Why are they watching us? We may never know...

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I was kicking around ideas for Halloween projects that I might actually be able to complete before Halloween actually *arrived*. One old idea was to make blinking pairs of LED "eyes" to hide in my bushes and trees. But I just didn't know when I'd find time to do all that soldering. Then a shortcut occurred to me. I have lots of addressable LED strips -- I could just light up pairs of lights on those! And the more I thought about it, the more enhancements came to mind...

I implemented my project using a Particle Core microcontroller, and WS2812B LED strips, using the Adafruit NeoPixel library. But you should be able to use pretty much any controller and LED type you want. I'm thinking about porting things to use the FastLED library, as well. Hopefully, I can even refactor it with a software shim API that will let you easily choose between using the NeoPixels and FastLED libraries.

  • 1 × Particle Core ARM microcontroller with WiFi
  • 1 × WS2812B LED Strips Addressable LED strips

  • Video of the live deploy

    dougal11/13/2015 at 14:55 0 comments

    Finally cut together some of my video of the actual deployed project. The video isn't as nice as I really wanted. It was the end of the evening, and it was threatening to rain, so I was in a hurry. And I probably should have used my Olympus camera instead of my iPhone. Lastly, I did some last-minute tweaks of the blink timing that I probably should have left alone. So there are only rare times when multiple sets of eyes are overlapping, and there are long-ish periods when no eyes are active. Still, I thought it turned out well, overall.

  • Halloween Success

    dougal11/02/2015 at 19:13 0 comments

    I successfully deployed my Blinky Eyes project for Halloween, in the shrubs near the steps of our front porch. Due to a time crunch, I didn't get to finish some last minute timing tweaks that I was working on. So the eyes strip would sometimes have no eyes glowing for a little longer than I might of liked. But maybe I'm just impatient.

    I did take a couple of short videos, and when I get a chance to combine them and pare them down, I'll post the results here, so you can see the final project in context.

    Thanks to the HaD staff (@Adam Fabio) for the mention in the Halloween Hacklet!

  • Battery Life Test

    dougal10/10/2015 at 03:32 0 comments

    I did a battery life test today. Using a 2600 mAh USB battery I got just shy of 8 hours. Excellent!

  • Prototype test

    dougal10/09/2015 at 19:19 0 comments

    Though there are still features I want to add to my software library, I think it's reached a point that it's deployable for Halloween. So I'm calling this project a success. I took this video in my family room, with the LED strips laid out across our loveseat. You might notice some reflections in the windows behind everything.

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  • 1
    Step 1

    There's really not much to the project, hardware-wise -- the fun stuff is in the software. Power your controller and LED strip, and hook up the appropriate data lines between the controller and strip.

    In my case, I'm powering the Particle Core via USB, and living dangerously by powering my LED strips right from the GND and VIN pins of my Core. Data is from pin A5 (could be any GPIO, though). I ran a power test using a 2600mAh USB battery, and it worked fine for about 2.5 hours. After that, I think the voltage dropped too low to overcome the forward voltage of the blue and green LEDs, so all the lights were red. It lasted about another hour in that state.

    I've changed my code now with a lower default brightness level, fewer instances of blinking eyes, and I turn off WiFi. So the same battery pack should last a bit longer. I just need to do another real-world test.

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Steve Michel wrote 04/22/2017 at 01:53 point

lol..interested...maybe we can try APA107 led source, more stable and cheaper, most important is that we can save much

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Kyle Yankanich wrote 10/31/2015 at 17:59 point

Any chance of grabbing your source code?

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dougal wrote 11/02/2015 at 18:54 point

The Github link is up in the left sidebar, but here it is again :)

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Kyle Yankanich wrote 11/03/2015 at 13:44 point

Somedays I'm blind. Thanks for the help!

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Adam Fabio wrote 10/30/2015 at 01:32 point

You know - I thought I had seen EVERY use for an LED strip, until I saw this one - Brilliant Idea Dougal! So simple, yet in a dark room it's just pefect!

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dougal wrote 11/02/2015 at 18:55 point

Thanks! I know the project itself isn't anything super-special or complicated, but we all know that laziness spawns many ideas. That was the case here -- rather than trying to wire up many small, separate sets of LEDs, I realized that I could use the LED strips as a set of pre-wired LEDs, and just ignore the ones I didn't need. :)

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