My eyes! The goggles do nothing!

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While I’m not much one for impulse buys, I was unable to prevent myself from purchasing the Adafruit Trinket-Powered NeoPixel Goggle Kit Pack.  If you’re on the fence about dropping the $40 for this kit, let me help you out with the pro’s and con’s list I went through before buying my own.

  • Cons
    • I literally have no practical uses for these goggles
    • Other than flashing lights, they don’t actually do anything useful
    • Once assembled, they can’t be used as goggles since (a) the LED’s are too bright to expose to even your closed eyes and (b) if you’re able to close off the glare, you’ll have an incredibly narrow field of vision
    • The kit is $40
  • Pros
    • They are seriously badass animated LED flashy goggles
    • Sourcing all the parts separately would easily cost you $50, which makes this a deal at $40

Kit Review

As I have come to expect from Adafruit, the kit is, in a word fantastic.  The parts are all packed neatly, wrapped, protected, and in a nice black cardboard box.  If you’ve never purchased a kit from Adafruit or checked out one of their tutorials, you’re really missing out.  The tutorials have lots of high quality pictures, helpful step-by-step directions, and little tips along the way that will undoubtedly make you a better hacker.

I got the basic electronics up and running pretty quickly.1 From there it was relatively easy to install them into the goggles.  My wife and daughter, both skeptical when I first told them about the goggles, immediately demanded their own upon seeing mine.

If you end up buying this kit, I would recommend not doing what I did – hotgluing the Trinket and NeoPixel rings in place.  Don’t get me wrong, this is exactly what you need to do to make affix these parts in place for wearing.  The thing is – within 24 hours of completing the project my mind was boiling over with ideas of how to Make it Better.™

Hacking the Goggles

The thing is, the kit is actually capable of doing a whole lot more with very minimal hacking.  Assembled exactly per instructions, the goggles use just one I/O pin on the Trinket, leaving four unused.  The evening after I had assembled the goggles, I dismantled them in order to pull out the Trinket, and soldered additional wires to pins 2, 3, and 4 and spliced three new wires to ground.  After soldering a big 12mm tactile button to each of three sets of wires, I hotglued the buttons above the right lens.  Now I can use these buttons to interact with the goggles in some small ways.

If you’re thinking of modifying your goggles like my own, you’ll need a little more ribbon cable, three big tactile buttons, a battery extension cable, black craft foam, and a hotglue gun.  You don’t really need the extension cable, but it will make keeping the battery inside the goggles and recharging the battery much easier.2

The Adafruit website provides several other ways to extend these goggles.  You can their tutorials to make the goggles sound reactive, controllable by bluetooth, or if you’re using something more powerful than a Trinket you can add an accelerometer.

My Setup

If you’d like to use my animations, you can find my code on GitHub.  I’ve updated the code with several animations:

  1. Larson Scanner.  This is just a single LED lit up, travelling from the left to right and back again.
  2. Wave Scanner.  Two LED’s are lit up, one travelling along the top of the lens and another along the bottom, until it reaches the far side of the goggles, then back again.
  3. Infinity Scanner.  A single LED travels around one lens, then around the other in an infinity pattern.
  4. Spinny Wheels.  Four LED’s on each lens spinning.  This is part of the original sketch from Adafruit.
  5. Sparks.  A single LED on each lens lights up briefly.  This is part of the original sketch from Adafruit.
  6. Sirens.  One red spinny wheel and one blue spinny wheel.
  7. aStrobe.  The right and left lenses flash white on and off.

The buttons have specific uses as well:

  • Button 1 (on pin 2) makes the current animation brighter
  • Button 2 (on pin 3) cycles through the animations
  • Button 3 (on pin 4) makes all LED’s light up bright red (won’t destroy your night vision!)
  • Button 2 and 3 simultaneously make all LED’s light up bright white (destroy everyone’s night vision!)

If you are going to go through the trouble of building this kit, I would highly recommend adding buttons to it3 and leaving the USB port on the Trinket exposed for later re-programming.  There are a few little tricks you can do with just a single button – treating a button click differently than a button press of a certain duration – but I feel that these would probably be more difficult to use than just adding a second button.  With two buttons, there are up to three combinations4 , with three buttons would have up to seven combinations5 , and four buttons seven billion combinations.6

At this point, I’m still experimenting with with ways to make the goggles more useful/awesome.  Perhaps another post is in order?

  1. It would have been even quicker if my Trinket skillz weren’t so rusty []
  2. Beats the hell out of trying to get your goggles right next to a USB cable. []
  3. Or, at the least soldering wires to the pins for later use []
  4. 1, 2, and 1 + 2 []
  5. 1, 2, 3, 1 + 2, 1 + 3, 2 + 3, 1 + 2 + 3 []
  6. I might have gotten carried away with the math on the last one… []
May 25, 2015 | Comments Closed

Robbed. During broad daylight. At work. By the mailroom guys.

At least, this is what it felt like

At least, this is what it felt like

I was waiting to surprise you with this, but last week I bought a MakerBot and had it shipped to work. 1

Well, it arrived today… and really… I suppose this is my own fault… but… you see… I was just robbed.

One of the best and most irreplaceable things about getting an awesome new robot is unboxing it.  The mailroom guys at work, well intentioned though they are, opened my MakerBot box.  I suppose I could have told them in advance that the robot should be arriving soon and to be on the look out for it.

Nevertheless!  Tonight I have to clear a space in my Robot Work Area so that I can add my Replicator to the line of robot workers.  But what to name it?  My MakerBot Cupcake CNC is named “Bender,” the MakerBot Thing-O-Matic is named “Flexo.”  There are so many Futurama robots to choose from.

I suppose I could chose a non-Futurama name for my new robot, but it really seems such a shame to break a streak.

  1. Photo courtesy of Timo Newton-Syms []
  2. She’s also a bending unit! []

Kodak, Kodak, Kodak…

Over the last few weeks Kodak has been on NPR several times.  Kodak invented digital camera technology, but never tried to push it – since it didn’t advance their core method for making money… selling film.  I’m reminded of this because I’ve finally come very very close to finally using up my 5 pound coil of black ABS that I’ve had since December of 2009.

I’m both excited and saddened at this prospect.  In the last two years I’ve run through 5 pounds of clear PLA, 5 pounds of black ABS1 , and another kilogram of clear PLA.  I’ve used a smattering of other colors, but not a whole lot yet.  Black has been my go-to color since I’ve had so damn much of it.

  1. Almost []

My New Wallpaper

Mood Lighting For ToM by jetty

Mood Lighting For ToM by jetty

It’s just so damn pretty!

January 14, 2012 | Comments Closed

Here I sit

At work.

Not near my MakerBot®.

Unable to print a 20-sided die.


September 30, 2011 | Comments Closed

MOAR CUPCAKES! Or, am I being a glutton?

MakerBot just announced they’re dropping the price on the MakerBot Cupcake CNC Ultimate kits to a ridiculously low $455.00.

I already own a Cupcake CNC, named “Bender.”  He’s been fully upgraded with an automated build platform, MK5, and a few printed upgrades as well.  (Right now it has a Unicorn instead of the MK5 installed.)  I already own a Thing-O-Matic, named “Flexo.”  My Thing-O-Matic is fully upgraded with a MK6 stepper extruder and a few minor printed upgrades.

Do I really need more plastic printing production capacity?  I don’t know.  Do I have a new name for a potential new robot lined up?  No, I really don’t.

Do I really want another 3-axis CNC robot?  Yes.  Yes, I do.

Back from Maker Faire SF Bay Area 2011!

I’m exhausted! 1  What a great time!

I got to spend time with my family, see some amazing stuff, meet some great people, and see some old friends.  I also ate some junk food!  Perfect weekend all around.

I got to meet several people for the first time – including beak90, DocProfSky, DNA.  A few people mentioned they liked my OpenSCAD tutorials, which just made my day.

  1. So exhausted I didn’t get to publish this post until just now… []

On the road again

Early tomorrow1 morning I need to drive from the SF bay area up to Chico.  On a whim I checked out the MakerBot map to see if there was anyone around in that area.  Apparently MakerBot operator “RG MakerBot #853” is out that way.

I think I need to burn a driving CD before I go.  :)

  1. Well, technically TODAY []
May 9, 2011 | Comments Closed