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An interactive LED based display for retro pixel art. Use your Android device to change the image or animation.

If you missed our Kickstarter, you can get info and order PIXEL at http://ledpixelart.com 

UPDATE: Based on popular demand, we've made available a version of PIXEL with a simple, black frame. You'll have your choice of the black frame or the gold, ornate frame. The black frame version of PIXEL will be shipping in May '13. The gold, ornate frame is still planned for an April '13 shipment. We will send out a poll to all backers at the end of the KickStarter campaign for your preference.

PIXEL is an LED based picture frame that displays pixel art. Pixel art is a retro form of digital art where the image is manipulated pixel-by-pixel. You set the image or animation on PIXEL from your Android device. Sorry iOS users, only Android is supported at this time :-(

PIXEL contains over 1,000 LEDs. Each LED equals one pixel for a resolution of 32x32. 

An image like this 

looks like this on PIXEL

Or an animation like this 

Looks like this on PIXEL


PIXEL includes:

To showcase what PIXEL can do, we've collaborated with a few leading edge Pixel Artists from around the world. 

* PIXEL uses one Bluetooth dongle, the extra one can be used in your PC if you are running the PIXEL PC App

Featured Pixel Artists

  Kirk Barnett (Pixel PileDriver) is a programmer and artist. Currently he is an indie game developer and co-founder BlockLight. 

 

Gabe Mir is a pixel artist who resides in South Florida. He has always been interested in video games since his youth, and has been practicing pixel art for a few years. View Gabe's work on PIXEL

Christopher Goldsmith (imkrut) is a digital artist, living in Santiago, Chile. Art has been his passion since a very early age, together with video games, it's a match made in heaven. After graduating from law school, he came back to digital art where his heart truly is.

Clement Swennes (Atnas) is a freelance artist and animator living in Philadelphia. He's a hobbyist programmer and designer and aims to release some of his games in the future.

Each of the artists has his/her own free Android app for PIXEL featuring their work.

To download and share PIXEL content with fellow PIXEL users, join the Google+ Community called "PIXEL Content".

When powered off, Pixel just looks like a normal mirror as it includes a 2-way mirror. Hidden behind PIXEL's two way mirror is a proximity sensor. The proximity sensor enables interactive art installations where the art can change when someone is near.

Complimenting Mirror App

If you look close at PIXEL, you can see the individual LEDs. Each of PIXEL's 1,024 LEDs actually contains 3 LEDs. PIXEL's color is set by controlling the brightness and mixing of the colors of these 3 LEDs (red, green, and blue).



PIXEL's apps

PIXEL's Android apps are free and available on Google Play now. At the moment, there are 10 Android apps available. PIXEL's apps can display still images, animations (using the animated .gif format), interactive meaning the still image or animation changes when someone is near, or something else like the complimenting mirror app for example. For still images, just set the desired image and then you're free to run other apps or turn off your phone. The image will remain on PIXEL as long as PIXEL has power. For animations and interactive apps, your Android device must be actively Bluetooth connected to PIXEL and running the app in order to function.

For Artists

PIXEL allows you to focus on your art and not the programming. Prior to PIXEL, typical LED projects like with Arduino for example required coding and wiring up circuits. Arduino certainly made it easier than previous methods but still you needed to write code or wire up circuits. We wanted to change that. With PIXEL, simply author your art using your favorite image editor and then save it to your Android device. 

There are a few nuances when working with LEDs, the main one being low contrast colors don't display well, you'll find the full set of do's and don'ts here. Also keep in mind PIXEL's resolution is 32x32. While PIXEL's apps will automatically scale images to 32x32, high resolution images won't display well.

Silhouettes produce a nice effect

For DIYers

For those wanting a custom installation, just the insides of PIXEL are also available which we're calling PIXEL Guts. PIXEL Guts 1024 features the 32x32 LED panel including 1,024 RGB LEDs. Note the proximity sensor and proximity sensor cable is not included with PIXEL Guts. If you want the proximity sensor too, just add $12 to your pledge and send me a note so we can track it.

PIXEL Guts includes:

PIXEL Guts Step by Step Instructions and Video Tutorial

* PIXEL uses one Bluetooth dongle, the extra one can be used in your PC if you are running the PIXEL PC App

Custom Installation Example Using PIXEL Guts 1024


For Developers

PIXEL is open source meaning you or others can write your own apps for PIXEL.

Think of PIXEL as a secondary LED based display that displays something based on the logic in your Android app. Your Android device can control PIXEL over a Bluetooth or direct USB connection. To develop your own Android app for PIXEL, you'll need to be familiar with Android programming and will use the PIXEL API.  You'll find all the gory details along with the source code at ledpixelart.com/developers.html 

Dimensions

PIXEL's dimensions are 15 inches wide x 15 inches tall x 1 3/4 inches wide, the weight is 6 lbs and shipping weight 10 lbs.

Our Costs

Our Cost for 250 PIXEL Units: $130 USD per unit (main driver of cost is the LED panel, they're not cheap).

$229 (KickStarter Price) - $130 (raw cost) - $18 (KickStarter fees) - $40 shipping cost = $41 USD profit

To be honest, I mis-judged the costs as they turned out much higher than originally planned but that's ok, it's been a great experience and hey at least we didn't lose money. PIXEL's post KickStarter price has not been set yet, what we can say is that it will be significantly higher than the KickStarter price to account for distributors, marketing, and various other elements.

As a side note, here's the slides from a class I taught which talks about how a hobbyist can go from an idea to a product. A lof of the talk also goes over my experience and lessons learned from doing this KickStarter. 

Project Status & Manufacturing

PIXEL has been in the works for 6 months. The device shown in this project's video is the third and final prototype so it's ready to be manufactured. We've selected Seeedstudio as our manufacturer. Seeed is based out of Shenzhen, China and will be taking care of sourcing, manufacturing, assembly, and shipping. Having designed PIXEL's case and frame mount, Seeed was also an integral part of the product design. A special thanks to Ytai Ben-Tsvi, creator of the open source IOIO board, for all his invaluable help on this project. 

You can find more info on PIXEL at ledpixelart.com. Thanks very much for checking out this project. 

-- The PIXEL Team

FAQs

Q. Why aren't you supporting iPhones and iPads? You do realize you're missing half the market, right?

A. Believe us, we do realize this and we really wish we were supporting Apple devices/iOS right now. The reality unfortunately is porting the project to iOS while technically possible, is a pretty big job. We don't want to over commit ourselves. Our priority is on delivering PIXEL for Android in April '13 as promised. We are however in parallel scoping out this effort and depending on how well PIXEL does, will look into taking up this endeavor post KickStarter. We're also open to paying someone else to do it, shoot us a note if you're interested!

Q. How much will PIXEL cost post KickStarter?

A. Post KickStarter, PIXEL will cost more. The exact price is TBD and will depend on things like volume and distribution models which still needs to be worked out.

Q. Does PIXEL tie up my Android device/phone or can I just set the image and then use other apps or turn my phone off? 

A. For still images, just set the desired image and then you're free to run other apps or turn off your phone. The image will remain on PIXEL as long as PIXEL has power. For animations and interactive apps like the complimenting mirror or the fortune telling eightball, your Android device must be actively Bluetooth connected to PIXEL and running the app in order to function.

Q. Does the power supply for PIXEL work with 220V/240V?

A. Yes, PIXEL's power supply can run from 110V to 240V power. It outputs 5V DC up to 4 Amps and has a standard 2.1mm barrel jack connector. The plug it comes with is the "two-prong style" for US/Canada/Japan however so you'll need to supply your own plug adapter for your country.

Q. Do the electronics show when PIXEL is hanging on well.

A. No, you don't see the electronics when PIXEL is hanging on the wall. What you will see is the black case of PIXEL which covers up the electronics which will stick out from the wall a little bit and you will see the power cord too.  Here's a side shot.


Q. What's a good image editor to use for creating pixel art?


A. The free Android app, Pixels Touch, works great. Create your image in a 32x32 canvas. Pixels Touch saves images in the /Pictures folder. Use an Android file manager app to transfer these images to the pixel/pixelart folder and then launch the Pixel Art app to display it on PIXEL.


Q. Will PIXEL work with any Android device?

A. Well that's tough to say as each Android device manufacturer can make their own Android device modifications. What we can say is that with a few exceptions, the Android devices we have tested work with PIXEL. For sure your Android device will need to have Bluetooth so watch out for those el cheapo Android tablets as most of them don't have built in Bluetooth. Android devices 2.3.3 and above are recommended. Android devices below 2.3.3 will also work with the caveat you'll need to enter the Bluetooth pairing code each time the device is re-booted.

Q. How much power does PIXEL use?

A. When idle, PIXEL consumes 1.4 watts and when in use depending on the particular still image or animation being displayed, PIXEL will consume anywhere from 4 to 8 watts.

Q. Who developed PIXEL?

A. PIXEL is a joint collaboration between Al LinkeYtai Ben-Tsvi and Seeedstudio.

Q. Can I write my own apps for PIXEL and how hard is that to do?

A. Yes, PIXEL is open source and was designed to be expandable by others. PIXEL apps are Android based. Android is basically Java so if you know Java, you’re good. If you don’t know Java but have programmed in other languages, you’ll be able to pick it up pretty quick by going through the HelloWorld example code. After mastering the Hellow World example, copy one of the existing PIXEL apps and modify it for your needs.

Q. Can I use a PC to control PIXEL instead of an Android device?

A. Yes, the developer page has sample code for how to develop java apps that will control PIXEL from a PC (Windows, Mac, or LINUX) over Bluetooth. There are no PC apps written yet but this will come in the near future now that the PC sample code has been released.

 
Q. What would it take to get PIXEL working on iOS?

A. Someone would need to port the IOIO libraries for Bluetooth to the iOS platform using Bluetooth 4.0. It's doable, we would be glad to provide support if anyone is interested and depending on how well PIXEL does, we would be open to paying for this, just shoot us a note if you're interested.

Q. Is there a DIY version of PIXEL available for custom installations?

A. Yes, the DIY version is called PIXEL Guts and comes in two flavors, PIXEL Guts 1024 features a 32x32 LED matrix and PIXEL Guts 512 features a 16x32 LED matrix. Here's an examplecustom build we did for a Halloween party and corresponding project write-up.

Q. Can I replace the two-way mirror with a colored acrylic sheet?

A. Yes, you'll need to remove PIXEL's back case and then you can swap out PIXEL's two-way mirror with your own acrylic sheet. Have one acrylic sheet in the color of your choice cut to these dimensions at 242mm (9.53 inches) x 242mm (9.53 inches) x 1.6mm thick (1/16 inches). Keep the acylic sheet with the two holes on the inside closest to the proximity sensor and then place your new acrylic sheet facing outside.

Q. The power cord shows, any way to hide that?

A. Option 1 is have an electrician run a power outlet into a recessed power box like this one and then place PIXEL over the recessed box hiding the power cord and power supply in the box.

Option 2 is to power PIXEL off an external smart phone battery pack. You'll need a pretty beefy battery pack however with at least 10,000 mAH capacity/3A output. We tested the Anker® Astro3E 10000mAh which was able to power PIXEL running a continuous animation for 12 hours. You'll also need this special USB power cable. You'll need to make a few modifications/adjustments to mount this battery pack on the back of PIXEL's case.

Risks and challenges Learn about accountability on Kickstarter

The main risk is the schedule. Having worked with our manufacturer, Seeedstudio, on previous projects however, we feel confident for an April 2013 ship date but of course Murphy's law is always there.

From time to time, we do find bugs in the software. We'll be updating the Android apps as we find them.

There is also some inherent risk with the Android platform as each Android manufacturer can do things a little different. PIXEL works on all the Android devices we've tested from Android 2.2 to 4.1 but unfortunately we cannot guarantee 100% compatibility with every Android device. The majority of our testing however has been on Android devices 2.3.3 and therefore we're recommending Android devices 2.3.3 and higher. Note that PIXEL is Bluetooth based meaning your Android device must have built in Bluetooth.

FAQ

Have a question? If the info above doesn't help, you can ask the project creator directly.

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    For DIYers: PIXEL Guts 512. Includes a 16x32 LED panel (512 RGB LEDs), micro-controller + LED panel shield, cables, and power supply. Note most of PIXEL's images and animations are optimized for a 32x32 display.

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    One fully assembled PIXEL including LED panel mounted picture frame, 2-way mirror, and hidden proximity sensor. You just need to supply the Android device and you'll be up and running in minutes. The final retail price of PIXEL will be around $249. Free shipping to the USA (add $15 for shipping outside of the US)

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    One fully assembled PIXEL including LED panel mounted picture frame, 2-way mirror, and hidden proximity sensor. You just need to supply the Android device and you'll be up and running in minutes. The final retail price of PIXEL will be around $249. Free shipping to the USA (add $15 for shipping outside of the US)

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    Same as above, just with a later shipping date as this would be the second manufacturing run. One fully assembled PIXEL including LED panel mounted picture frame, 2-way mirror, and hidden proximity sensor. You just need to supply the Android device and you'll be up and running in minutes. The final retail price of PIXEL will be around $249. Free shipping to the USA (add $15 for shipping outside of the US).

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