LEDs are poised to revolutionize displays, but that future isn’t “evenly distributed” yet. And that’s why some emerging projects are so intriguing. Think instant displays, addressable from any computer – including with Syphon. Just plug Ethernet on one end, into strings of these:

ledstrip

That’s the idea behind PixelPusher, a project currently on Kickstarter. Development appears complete; they’re using crowd funding to support doing a run of a thousand of these, made in California. The notion is networked lighting arrays you can address from a computer, using Syphon or free apps they’ve built with Processing. (For anyone who uses Processing, this is also very, very exciting.)

Lighting effects, LED-based displays and matrices, even volumetric displays then become powerful. And since it’s all networked, interfacing is quite flexible.

The hardware looks cool, as well. Inside is a powerful processor (a 32-bit ARM Cortex-M3 based LPC1758, if you must know).

US$350 will buy you the hardware and 100 pixels, and nicely enough, they say they’ll ship by June. $220 gets one strip and the hardware, to just toy around with this. (Cheaper premiums with just LEDs are available.)

Update: this isn’t fully open source hardware, but includes a lot of open source components. The library and “API” are open, but it appears the hardware itself is closed, at least initially. Still, having the API is a step, and I would happily invest in a closed solution if it works. I expect the bigger obstacle for practicality is that these LED strips tend to be expensive once you start combining a lot of them, but on a smaller scale, this could be absolutely spectacular.

PixelPusher designer Jasmine Strong explains via comments:

The library, network protocol and software layer are all open source and documented. Right now the firmware is not open source because we’re still working on polishing it; it will be open sourced once we’re done. (We’d also rather not have anyone clone it just yet.)

The hardware is pretty straightforward, so if you want to write your own firmware for it, you can go ahead and do that- we include the PCB layout in the documentation, so that’s something you can do if you want to. On the other hand, we’ve spent six months writing it, and it’s pretty good, so I’m not sure why you’d want to do this.

The project looks terrific, and I do expect to see more of these things. So, I’ll be interested to track their progress and see how they fare. Know of other similar solutions, or got any questions? Shout out in comments.

PixelPusher @ Kickstarter

  • Jasmine Strong

    Hi, I’m the designer of PixelPusher, and I’ll answer any questions you have about this.

    The library, network protocol and software layer are all open source and documented. Right now the firmware is not open source because we’re still working on polishing it; it will be open sourced once we’re done. (We’d also rather not have anyone clone it just yet.)

    The hardware is pretty straightforward, so if you want to write your own firmware for it, you can go ahead and do that- we include the PCB layout in the documentation, so that’s something you can do if you want to. On the other hand, we’ve spent six months writing it, and it’s pretty good, so I’m not sure why you’d want to do this.

    • http://www.facebook.com/chromatouch Leon Trimble

      what’s the benefit of using this rather than madmapper (if i have the soft/hardware)?

    • Jasmine Strong

      MadMapper doesn’t drive LEDs directly. They’re not the same thing (and you could drive MadMapper into PixelPusher if you wanted to.)

    • http://www.facebook.com/skulpture Graham Thorne
    • hc gilje

      That madmapper example is using a dmx controller to control the color of a whole led strip segment at once, the pixelpusher controls individual pixels on a digital led strip.

      An alternative to pixelpusher could be the teensy 3.0 controller combined with the octoWS2811 library http://www.pjrc.com/teensy/td_libs_OctoWS2811.html
      This however only works with the WS2811 based ledstrips.

    • Jasmine Strong

      It also only works over USB, which has a five metre distance limitation, and can’t control as many pixels as PixelPusher does (PixelPusher runs eight strips of 240 pixels a piece, whereas octoWS2811 is limited to 1000 pixels per board). PixelPusher uses 100 Mbit ethernet and a custom protocol (which is documented and open sourced) to run any distance you care to string Cat5 cable over.

    • hc gilje

      I think both have their uses. The teensy costs $19, and you can daisychain them, so I guess it´s a question of how big you need to go for a project, and you have to do a bit of soldering yourself with the teensies. I am definitely going to check out the PixelPusher though, seems like a very flexible and well implemented system.

    • Nathanaël

      That’s not totally true anymore, the Teensy 3.1 is out and can control around 1000 leds per pin (that’s 8000 leds total) We’ve also been working on some code with artnet which works very well so you can use ethernet cables.

    • jahaja

      MadMapper can control individual LEDs as well. It’s a matter of what kind of LED strip you have, either the LEDs are individually addressable or they’re not.

    • http://pkirn.com/ Peter Kirn

      Thanks, Jasmine, for the great response. We’ll be talking more, I’m sure!

      So, I’d say then technically not open source hardware unless I misunderstand the intentions of the hardware design and license, but hardware with a high degree of openness and open source software and an open API.

    • Jasmine Strong

      It’s not open source hardware, but all the software (the part that runs on a controlling PC, Mac, Linux box, Android, whatever) is open source, and the firmware will be open source once we’re done.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=693071883 Brian Burt

    I just thought I’d say I’ve seen what Jasmine has done with this technology in person, and it’s awesome to see!

  • http://twitter.com/_vade vade

    Awesome to see Syphon support. I am curious how this is implemented in person. Anyone have a board in NYC ?

  • Marco Tempest

    Brilliant. Looking forward to receiving my first set.

  • http://www.facebook.com/hogguru Mick Murray

    Is there any plan to make an artnet compatible version of this?

    • Matthew Stone

      Artnet is now supported!