Become a fan of Slashdot on Facebook


Forgot your password?
Hardware Hacking Open Source Hardware News Build

Arduino-Based, High Powered LED Lighting Over Wi-Fi 114

Gibbs-Duhem writes "This awesome video was produced by some MIT engineers recently. They've started a fully open-source, open-hardware high power LED lighting project that they designed to be modular enough to control with the Arduino (or any other control system). Using their open-source firmware, you can set up the Arduino to connect to Wi-Fi and receive Open Sound Control packets. Then, they went further and released open-source software for PureData and Python to do music analysis and make the lights flash brilliantly in time with the music! A full Instructable was also posted in addition to the existing documentation for design and assembly on their website."

This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

Arduino-Based, High Powered LED Lighting Over Wi-Fi

Comments Filter:
  • by digitaldc ( 879047 ) * on Friday November 19, 2010 @02:52PM (#34284062)
    LED Zeppelin
  • Arduino again? (Score:1, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward

    Can't people write regular C code anymore these days? When you get down to it, Arduino is just software added to a regular Atmel AVRs.

    • Can't people write regular C code anymore these days? When you get down to it, Arduino is just software added to a regular Atmel AVRs.

      I was going to say that! only with more actual words.

    • Re:Arduino again? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Gordonjcp ( 186804 ) on Friday November 19, 2010 @03:08PM (#34284272) Homepage

      You program Arduinos in C++. The IDE thing that comes with it basically wraps some boilerplate around your code, runs it through avr-gcc and uploads it with avrdude.

      There's nothing to stop you writing something from scratch to run on an Arduino board, and even pulling in some of the useful libraries that people have created for it. I actually prefer to write my code in gedit and use a fairly normal Makefile to make and upload the code.

      • by thelexx ( 237096 )

        When I looked into them 2-3 years ago, the Arduino was pretty obviously targeted at artists and less technical hobbyists. Using eclipse and uploading/debugging right from it was the route I took with the Mega128's in my bot. Maybe things have changed, but at the time the price/performance of the Arduino stuff just wasn't there for me. There were/are many really nice controller boards (for the Mega's anyway) that far outstrip the capabilities of what Arduino offers, and cost less.

        • If you're going to use Eclipse, you may as well use Arduino's own "Wiring" IDE. I mean, if you're going to put up with slow, crashy, buggy Java cruft then why make life extra hard?

          At the time I started getting into using Arduino boards (about three years ago), it was by far the cheapest AVR development board with a built-in USB-to-serial converter.

  • Okay (Score:2, Informative)

    by Sylak ( 1611137 )
    EDMX/ETCNet is still going to remain the control standard for using Wifi to control lights, especially when DMX information is readily available online.

    This method will probably only lend way to hobbiests who can't justify purchasing the equipment, when even DJs use DMX now. (Although Net2 touring nodes are relatively cheap now, and Net2 compatible light boards are popping up on eBay with the new generation of light boards replacing the old ones)

    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by makkbe ( 1124889 )
      Art-Net (although completely worthless, just as ETCNet) is much more widespread than ETCNet looking outside the US, even over WiFi. But while you're building something like this, why not go for an open protocol that is really designed for controlling lights, such as BSR E1.31? Plain stupid in my eyes; I'll have to fix their firmware. On another note, using WiFi for lighting control is idiotic. WiFi is no way near stable enough to provide a decent transport for time critical protocols.
      • by Sylak ( 1611137 )

        I figured most people outside of the trade wouldn't really care that wifi is the worst idea for a light desk, so i didn't think to mention it, especially considering this generations obsession with wireless. Personally, if i wanted a wireless light system for anything but an RVI, i would actually spend the money for the dedicated WDMX nodes that are FCC Class A devices, even if they cost several times more than a typical 802.11g/n router.

        Being state-side, I've only gotten to work with Ethernet system that

    • Next project is to build a DMX -> OSC converter. It won't be terribly hard, but we're all busy with day jobs.

      If you'd like to help, feel free to join the development mailing list. The plan was to do it using a maple board, but FPGA would probably be simpler and cheaper.

  • So .... ? (Score:1, Insightful)

    "This awesome video "
    That's a bunch of LEDs glowing with a music. Hardly awesome, especially for slashdot crowd, who for sure knows that blinking a LED (or even four or five) is not rocket science. That's the first step for every Arduino beginner.

    make the lights flash brilliantly in time with the music! Whow ! THAT is impressive ! Let's throw some exclamation marks ! !!!!! !!!! !

    So, I think I missed something. Seriously, MIT students made some LEDs glow according to a music. Fourrier, (very) basic e
    • by Yvan256 ( 722131 )

      Not only that, but Arduino instead of straight C code? They should receive bad grades for making MIT look like pre-school.

      • Summary is deceptive: They don't use an Arduino. They use their own ARM Maple board: [] which was designed to the Arduino form factor.

        These lights lit up our burning man camp :)

    • So in summary, meh results from unimpressive tech. However: video, MIT, open-source, open-hardware, Arduino, instructable. You just won MakerBingo.
  • by Arancaytar ( 966377 ) <> on Friday November 19, 2010 @03:11PM (#34284300) Homepage

    Das Blinkenlichten. :)

  • Just imagine that in the 70s people used to do the same kind of stuff with just a few transistors :)
    • Yes, I thought the same. Sure, this is likely to have a few more effects and so on, but really, who pays much attention to how the sound-to-light works? I remember making a very effective one with a single thyristor, a potentiometer and a small transformer. That very simplicity makes it easy to get a kid interested in electronics; something this complex will only serve to make most think it's well beyond them.
  • Wake me up... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Professr3 ( 670356 ) on Friday November 19, 2010 @03:26PM (#34284480)
    ... when this costs less than $800 per unit.

    The code looks useful, but I'm getting paid $14 an hour. If I want to build RGB mood lighting for my house, I'm going to need a lot more than one unit. I can get 20 feet of RGB strip for $200, and they want $350 for a little 800-lumen flashlight board.
    • Re:Wake me up... (Score:4, Informative)

      by Gibbs-Duhem ( 1058152 ) on Friday November 19, 2010 @06:20PM (#34286330)

      As the designer, we tried to take people like you into account. If you're willing to solder your own boards and deal with heat sinking on your own, you can buy bare boards and use the Digikey BOM we made available on the documentation page to make your own for perhaps $100-$200 not including whatever you value your time at.

      There's also a 5% discount using the coupon code hobb123.

      Feel free to join the development lists if you want to get more ideas about how to do a less expensive system. I certainly want one too... but most of the cheap RGB fixtures out there are, in my opinion, unhackable garbage. RGB strips are cool though, if you just want mood lighting.

      w/r/t the comment below about 800 lumens being as bright as a standard 60W light bulb, I should point out why, although true, that's not actually a sane comparison.

      First, the lights here is colored to start with. Take a 60W incandescent and filter out everything but red, and you have a very dim light.

      Second, it is 800 lumens because we used royal blue (extremely pretty color) instead of standard blue. The difference in perceptible brightness, in my opinion and the opinion of everyone who has seen a side by side comparison, is that there is no difference. However, the conversion from lumens to watts declares that it is 200 lumens dimmer. I think that there is a serious flaw in the way we calculate bright-adjusted conversion factors.

      Third, the light is focused into a tight cone, meaning we lose almost no light due to light going "up" into the fixture. In a standard 60W, you're spending about half your light illuminating the ceiling. We don't do that, so the lux (lumens per square meter) is much higher. Try looking directly into one of these lights for more than a second, and you'll understand the difference.

      There is a difference between 60W from a white incandescent and a 800 lumen LED fixture. Yes, technically the number of lumens thrown out are the same, and it would be dumb to use the LED light to produce white light, but for colored light it is at least an order of magnitude brighter.

      • Yeah, the requirements for stage/concert illumination are pretty intense, and I understand why those design considerations keep the price high. As I said, I'm excited about the code! I'd just benefit a lot more from something that costs $6 and runs over a CAN bus.

        The LED strips need to be able to have each LED (or small set) controlled individually, for light shows, so my focus has to be on extremely cheap controllers and cost-effective LEDs. I'll definitely check out the development lists - maybe someo
        • I actually have lots of recommendations for doing cheap controllers for lower power LEDs =) I helped an extremely good friend of mine design several LED displays and have done a few myself. His design is extremely cool, although it took a lot of labor to do:


          Highly, highly, highly recommend the TLC5940 (or the most recent iteration in that line). Does onboard 12-bit PWM, 16 channels, and open drain so you can in principle run an arbitrary number of LEDs on it

    • by leptons ( 891340 )
      I just got a 10 Watt RGB LED from ebay (from hong kong) in the mail, cost me $17. It provides 300 Lumens and is seriously intensely bright. Was easy to hook up with a few simple voltage regulators on a 12V supply. Multiply x 3 and you have 900 lumens for under $50. Just needs some cooling and PWM and there you go.
      • Just needs some cooling and PWM and there you go.

        Heh. That's cute.

        Actually, FWIW I'm going to use the 40W version of that in the next version of this light. The cooling is a *serious* problem. Good luck. I doubt you can even turn the 10W one on for more than about 20 seconds before it melts.

        Am looking forward to tackling it once I have some funding again though =) It should end up being about a 3000 lumen RGB fixture, but it's going to cost a lot more for me to make it. Have to switch to 1/2" aluminum back plate, put on fans potentially, etc, etc.

  • $800 ?! (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Speare ( 84249 ) on Friday November 19, 2010 @03:36PM (#34284600) Homepage Journal

    Okay, I've done some Arduino stuff myself, and am familiar with the pricing on typical custom PCBs from Sparkfun. So I checked out the Saiko5 product page.

    I mentally added up the custom wifi shield, the custom LED driver board, the LEDs, the Arduino itself, and thought damn, I bet they're gonna offer this for nearly a hundred bucks. Add on a rubber duck antenna, some wall wart or LIPO for power, and a basic case, and that's more like $150. Then I see the photos of heavy duty bomb-proof cases which appear to be machine-bent-then-anodized aluminum plate. Even 2mm plate is overkill and this looks a lot thicker. That's silly thick and heavy, even for stage pyrotechnics units, and it's gonna cost. There's no way I'd be interested in $200 for such a device, especially since they'd work best in grid/swarm configurations. The altogether price they offered was four times that, at $800. Even factoring for (1) niche market, (2) assembly disincentive [prefer DIY assembly], and (3) low count factory runs, this price is out of all sensibility.

    • Unfortunately you left out 4) amortized development costs, 5) what the market will bear, and potentially 6) licensing costs. Consider the engineering work that goes into something like this...easily a few hundred engineer-hours. Now consider that the fully-burdened cost for a junior engineer is close to $100/hr. It goes up from there. So now we're talking in the mid-five figures before you sell unit 1. That's *just* labor. Care to add in ancillary costs? As for what the market will bear, there are LE

      • Re:$800 ?! (Score:5, Informative)

        by Gibbs-Duhem ( 1058152 ) on Friday November 19, 2010 @06:09PM (#34286224)

        Dear Speare,

        As the person who designed the device and the case, I have to question your ability to do a valid cost analysis, but if you'd be interested in helping out with bringing the cost down we'd love to have you. You can join our hardware mailing list at Wramsdel is completely correct, I have to pay the initial software developers who spent hundreds of hours developing the base system so that it was in a usable state, and I think it's not terribly fair to argue that the thousand plus hours I put into design, prototyping, assembly, and programming is not valuable. This is a one-man shop, and it's taken me three years to get from my original light fixture covered on slashdot in 2008 ( []) to this one, and I can assure you that the time investment is well worth it in quality. These things are good enough to compete with CK light fixtures (although I still need to finish my DMX -> OSC converter, I'm kind of totally out of money at the moment though).

        Most of the cost issue is that in small quantities *any* machining is expensive. Just having the 8 holes drilled and tapped into the aluminum piping was $17, for instance. If I was casting 1000 cases, and hiring FoxConn employees to assemble them, and not paying the software or hardware developers anything for their time, sure maybe the price could get down to $300, but $150 is crazy. The raw parts for the wifi module are $60 alone, not including any case whatsoever, nor the included arduino, nor the power supply, and so on.

        Also, Wramsdel is completely correct that I have to license patents from CK/Philips to sell these, and although the agreement is confidential, the amount is not trivial (and took lawyer time and my time to make happen). Additionally, I am trying to sell these to clubs as well so that I can offer cheaper versions to hobbyists (see below for how to get them cheaper). They are comparable to CK fixtures of similar price and brightness, are easier to install and use, and have free software to make them actually do things, as opposed to spending another $3k on control hardware and software.

        In any case, my goal with this is to get the price down to the point where I would happily buy lots of them. Since I'm poor, the only way I can do that is to get orders for enough of them that I can drop the price. Suggesting, however, that the price should be the cost of the components alone is unreasonable for any sane business. I want to be able to do this for a living and as a community service, not as a community service alone.

        In any case, since I want to get this off the ground so I can drop the price, I will point out a few things that you can do to drop the price.

        1. Buy the kit and build it yourself. My time is valuable (believe it or not), and I happily designed the product offering to be such that you could buy *everything* that you need to build your own, minus a screwdriver, for $680. I have a (hard) day job, and I'll pay top dollar for your time in doing it yourself.
        2. Use our hacker coupon code - hobb123. 5% discount. More than that I can't really support right now, since I need to get about $30k in order to build a full run of 100 lights.
        3. If you're really strapped for cash, buy the bare boards, and use the bills of materials which I *made fully downloadable from the site*, upload those to digikey, and source your own parts. Use the instructions I wrote for how to lay down the solder paste, place the components, and trivially reflow solder them on a hot plate. You won't have a case, but it sounds like you can surely manufacture your own, buy a power supply, and buy an arduino or whatever control board you like for $50. Go for it. If you just want raw component costs, excluding arduino and power supply and case, you can probably do it for $200 ($33 each special) or maybe even under $150 if you build a lot of them. Even better, you can put on your own colors of LEDs! I used red, green, and royal blue... you cou
        • +1 interesting Wish i had mod points...
    • I've been involved in costing and pricing real products. The short answer is, if manufacturing costs are more than 20% of expected retail, it's not worth building the product. (I originally learned this at a big company that makes test and measurement products - oscilloscopes and such. I didn't just make it up. And I've seen it at many other companies.)

      Cost of sales is rarely less than 45% to 55%. This may be in the form of a big, expensive sales force, or the 100% markup taken by most stores and/or 10%

  • Disco lights... wow.. amazing
  • This is pretty cool, and definitely something I want to roll throw together at home. That said, isn't this supposed to be MIT?

    Where's all the anti-gravity, Terawatt laser, and nuclear fusion experiments? This is a beginner Arduino project you might find on instructables. Awesome project, but come on MIT guys, we want more!
  • ....They re-invented the disco ball?
  • New dog, old tricks (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Sarten-X ( 1102295 ) on Friday November 19, 2010 @04:12PM (#34284998) Homepage

    That's it? When I read "high powered", I was expecting switching 500-amp supplies to banks of flood lights. I wasn't expecting... this.

    This is the same stuff that hobbyists [] and others [] have been doing for years. Their lights also perform outdoors, in occasional high winds, at extreme temperatures. The only thing that MIGHT be interesting here is the music analysis program, if it's capable of picking up actual musical qualities, rather than just levels of noise.

  • If that was the best demo they could come up with for this...I've seen better products like that at Radio Shack and Sharper Image...
  • by allanw ( 842185 ) on Friday November 19, 2010 @04:33PM (#34285248)

    Shamelessly linking my own blog here: []

    The board is in Arduino shield form factor and it can drive RGB 700mA LED's of any voltage up to 30V. It has an onboard micro that communicates with I2C that allows you to dim the channels without having to do the PWM on the host micro. This is optional, and there will be cheaper versions that just takes in PWM input signals directly.

    It seems like all these high power LED stuff is way overpriced. I designed this after seeing Sparkfun selling a similar board for $50! And now this, which costs at least $290 for a bare board.

    I haven't gotten around to finishing it yet but I intend to sell these boards for only $25 for the basic feature version.

    • As the designer of this light fixture, I would love to have you participate in the project... I used the LM3404 for PWM control because of heat sinking issues, but I do prefer using an external chip for PWM signal generation. For this project though it just seemed like overkill since the Arduino has PWM outputs set up already.

      I'd be happy to try to work with you to either drop the price of our stuff, make your stuff work more effectively, and so on. It's supposed to be an open project after all =)


      • by allanw ( 842185 )

        I did look into the LM3404 but I couldn't figure out how to set its current with a wide input voltage range.

        The HV9918 I picked is ridiculously cheap at only $1 a chip. For my project the LED driver chip was the main BOM cost. For you it probably wouldn't reduce costs by much. Unfortunately my board has some high EMI emissions despite its extremely compact layout which I haven't been able to figure out. Then again, one of my other switching power supplies also had mysterious EMI so it could just be my layou

        • Oh... um, send me a note offline and I can help you design a LM3404HV that will take up to 72VDC and provide a stable 700mA output. National Semiconductor has some nice simulation tools to deal with it. Did you try using those and were still unable to get it to work well? I'd also mention that the current varying between 650 and 750mA depending on input voltage isn't *that* bad of a scenario. Generally an end user can't tell the difference anyway, especially with the dramatically different LED efficiency bi

  • Arduino? Yawn. (Score:3, Informative)

    by Bassman59 ( 519820 ) <> on Friday November 19, 2010 @04:51PM (#34285438) Homepage
    I'm so tired of non-engineers puffing up the lame Arduino platform. Why bother with Arduino when you can get a Silicon Labs 8051 board, with an excellent USB JTAG dongle, for a hundred bucks? You can't buy the debugger for the AVR for that.
    • by allanw ( 842185 )
      How often does one need a JTAG debugger anyway? You can do plenty without one.
      • How often does one need a JTAG debugger anyway? You can do plenty without one.

        I tend to use it all the time. Beats the pants off of adding a resource-using monitor, or trying to blink LEDs, or spit things out the serial port, or whatever.

        Sure, if you're God's own programmer, you don't need a debugger, but us mortals like to use it when things don't go as expected.

        • Silly mortals, wasting your puny lives on the time sink of debugging when you could be doing something real instead.
    • As the person who made that design choice, it was because I want to make it accessible to hobbyists with minimal electronics experience. I'm not a moron, I have done work with FPGAs, and plenty of work with integrated atmels and PICs (as you can see from my older projects at []

      Don't worry, if I was targeting clubs I'd do it all on an FPGA with a built in network stack and hardware PWM outputs. But that's a lot harder, and no beginners would be able to use it. We probably still *will* do

      • My gripe, which you missed, was that a proper debug interface would be a great benefit for the newbie/hobbyist who is the likely end user of these things.

        I said nothing about "doing it in an FPGA" (btw, I do FPGA design for a living, and don't get me started on embedding micros in FPGAs). I also never called you a moron :)

        I like the idea of Arduino, just not its implementation.

    • That's funny. Because I'm so tired of engineers puffing up their own egos by downing the Arduino. I'm smart enough to know that there are far more elegant, powerful solutions than an Arduino for almost every possible situation. But I'm not educated enough to use them. Arduino is easy and accessible. Don't underestimate how attractive those qualities are for someone who simply wants a challenging hobby.
      • That's funny. Because I'm so tired of engineers puffing up their own egos by downing the Arduino. I'm smart enough to know that there are far more elegant, powerful solutions than an Arduino for almost every possible situation. But I'm not educated enough to use them. Arduino is easy and accessible. Don't underestimate how attractive those qualities are for someone who simply wants a challenging hobby.

        I humbly submit that if the Arduino included access to the AVR's debug facilities, the hobbyists would be very happy indeed. "Why doesn't this work as I expect? I dunno, lemme fire up the debugger and step through the code as it executes and see where it fails."

  • The software is a little spastic with the lighting. Seriously, if my lighting were that twitchy back when I did stage lighting for various bands, I never would have gotten a second gig.
    • The spasticity is entirely controlled by an open source puredata patch. Even a non-programmer could tune it until they like the behavior. I happen to like it as is =)

      Feel free to join the music analysis development list at [] if you want to make it work better. You'll find that it's designed to make the barrier to entry minimal. I literally wrote the music analysis software in 45 minutes after the python server was done.

  • I would love to control each of my lights, indeed each of my appliances, with a network application targeting their power switch (and more, if possible). But a WiFi chip in each light is expensive. People were carping about CFLs costing $10 each when incandescents cost $0.30 each; LEDs are still several times as expensive as CFLs for the same lumens. Adding WiFi is extremely expensive; Arduinos themselves aren't cheap.

    But there's a wire connecting each of these devices. X10 has long used the 0V point in eve

A committee takes root and grows, it flowers, wilts and dies, scattering the seed from which other committees will bloom. -- Parkinson