Create your own pixel LED animations using our Pixel Maker App and download it to our wearable matrix (or let us download it for you)
Create your own pixel LED animations using our Pixel Maker App and download it to our wearable matrix (or let us download it for you) Read more
About this project
I initially created this project for my 7 year old so he could learn about circuits, programming, graphical user interfaces (GUI), and still be able to create art…quickly. He enjoys it so much I thought it would be a fantastic Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, and Math (STEAM) project. The purpose of this campaign is to be able to buy material in large quantity in order to reduce the make price of the Matrix Flare assembly so that hobbyists, makers, and educators, can affordably create their own electronic art. Additionally, we’d like to create an online forum where creators can share their work and be inspired by others.
The Pixel Maker App
Our beta version of the Pixel Maker App was originally designed to help my son visually create animations rather than write code (we’ll save that for after he learns to spell, since learning to code will surely ruin any chances of winning a spelling B). That said, the Pixel Maker App outputs Arduino code.
Using the app doesn’t require the Matrix Flare assembly. In fact, my son and I play with it a lot which made me think it would make a fun mobile app. The Pixel Maker app was written in Visual.net and will be transitioned to a mobile app using funds raised in this campaign. However, it can take 4-6 months to get a mobile app through the review and approval process. So we wanted to release this beta version so you can start creating right away. We also want your feedback. The beta version will be available through our website which will go live after the campaign ends. Funds from this campaign will also go toward optimizing the website.
Those who contributed to the Pixel Maker App reward will be able to download the Pixel Maker App from our site or use it directly on our site. We will have a forum where contributors can share their feedback.
How does the Pixel Maker App work?
Users/creators create their animation one frame at a time by clicking (either with a mouse or through a touch screen monitor (as shown in the video)) on each pixel in the matrix. When they are finished, they can run their animation, adjust the timing, and adjust how often the animation repeats. Once they are satisfied with their animation they can save it and download it to their matrix by pasting the saved code into the anim.h file used in the Arduino IDE Trinket Jewelry Sketch created by Adafruit.com. Note 1: this sketch and programming instructions will be provided with each matrix. Note 2: Arduino IDE is an (an open source – read “free” software programming tool).
I know some of you are like “you want me to do what?” Don’t panic! You can also order your Matrix Flare assembly preprogrammed with your custom animation. Once you create your animation using the Pixel Maker App on our website, you can check an option for us to preprogram your Matrix Flare assembly with your creation prior to shipping it to you.
The Pixel Maker app can also load existing animations that can be modified and/or downloaded to your Matrix Flare Assembly. So if you are having one of those “staring at a blank matrix daze”, get inspired by loading an existing animation and tweaking it. We would love to share your animations on our website so everyone can see your creations and be inspired to create their own.
The Matrix Flare Assembly
Each Matrix Flare assembly comes preprogrammed with our default running horse sketch so you are up and running right out of the box. If you order it with one of our 3D printed flex cases, you are ready to get your e-flare on!
The Matrix Flare assembly has the following features (these were all the things I wanted when I was building a prototype using modular breakout boards):
It is reprogrammable through the micro type B USB interface using Arduino IDE.
The 3.7 VDC 150mAH Lithium Ion Polymer battery is rechargeable through the same micro type B USB interface used to program the Matrix Flare assembly.
The Matrix Flare assembly can be powered directly by the USB cable that ships with each assembly
The software sketch is setup to run for a short period of time, after which the microcontroller goes to sleep until the reset button is press or power is cycled and then the animation starts up again.
The software was setup this way to save battery life.That said, we provided solder pads on the circuit board to solder a battery to the Matrix Flare assembly in case your battery gets damaged or you want to use a larger battery. Adafruit.com and Sparkfun.com sell comparable lithium ion polymer batteries.Just cut off the JST connector and solder the leads to the corresponding solder pads on the circuit board assembly and off you go. Note: when you order a Matrix Flare assembly, it comes with a the 3.7 VDC 150mAH Lithium Ion Polymer battery already solder to it as shown in the picture.
The Matrix Flare assembly has a power switch.
Schematic capture, board layout, design optimization, and prototype assembly was completed by Spectronix, Inc. in FL.My prototype printed circuit boards (150 units) for the Matrix Flare assembly were fabricated by Advanced Circuits in CO. I have assembly quotes and turn key parts quotes from both Advanced Circuits and Advanced Assembly (also in CO) both of whom can handle a 5000 unit production effort with a 20 day lead time. Digikey provides a service to preprogram microcontrollers prior to shipping them to assembly houses. Most of the funds from this campaign will go toward fabricating, assembling, programming, and testing the Matrix Flare assemblies.
The 3D Printed Flex Cases
The cases for the Matrix Flare assembly are 3D printed using a Ninjaflex filament from Fenner Drives which is a flexible, we like to say “squishy”, TPE material. It may not have a perfectly smooth finish but it has a great texture and there is something about it that just makes it feel really cool. The filament also comes in so many great colors. The cases shown in the picture were designed for my prototype breakout board assemblies so are bigger than the new cases that will come with the Matrix Flare assembly. I wanted to show you some of the colors so included the photo.
I use Autodesk 123D Design (open source software tool) to create my 3D models. I use a Printrbot Simple Metal 3D printer and Cura (open source software) from Ultimaker to slice my models. A portion of the funds from this campaign will go toward getting another 3D printer from Printrbot. I love their printers since they are easy to use, Printrbot sells replacement parts and provides step by step assembly instructions, and they also sell the 3D printer as a kit that you can assemble yourself. Admittedly, I bought the prebuilt kit. Just sayn.
Matrix Flare Characters
My son and I created the Matrix Flare characters using Toon Boom Studios (paid software) and a Wacom tablet. We plan to create and share a storyline for each character on our website in preparation for our next gen product. Pictured below are the character stickers, printed by StickerGiant (in CO) and the T-shirt printed by Staples.
Risks and challenges
Additional firmware needs to be written, specifically a bootloader for the microcontroller to provide the capability to reprogram the microcontroller through the USB port. The current design uses a microcontroller that has already been preprogrammed with a bootloader as a proof of concept. It will cost $5,000 to obtain a USB VID so we can create our own bootloader and optimize the firmware. This will be funded through the campaign. I pushed out the fulfillment schedule to account for this development as a risk mitigation effort.Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
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