You Can Now Program a Light Spectacular Via Smartphone

New tech platform gives artists the power to create complex works with the tap of a button.

With exciting implications for glowing furniture of the future, interactive studio Second Story has created Lyt, a collaborative drawing canvas that allows users to control ambient lighting using their mobile phones via the new Intel Galileo microprocessor board. Unveiled today at Maker Faire Rome, Galileo allows for everything from touch senstive lights to mobile phone activated lasers, and will be the first in an ongoing roll-out of Arduino-compatible development boards presented by Intel.

Easy to use, this platform allows creators the chance to evolve highly complex works with relative ease. In our look at Lyt (above), the first in an upcoming series exploring makers hacking Galileo's interface, the folks at Second Story walk us through their use of the board, and the opportunity it presents for creators big and small to expand their design aspirations.

Below, we've asked Second Story to break down how they created the advanced set up that allows users to paint space with color, lines, and movement using their smartphones. 

1. Determine the size of fixture(s) you want to create.

This will directly influence how much light you need. We were inspired by Japanese screen room dividers and went with a tall and thin form factor. This also allows us to create something significant enough to have an impact in a larger space.

2. Get individual addressable LED strips. 

There are many different type of LED strips, but two specificly important things to look for:

Pixel pitch: this is the distance between led lights (your pixels), this often also referred to the amount of pixels per meter led

Driver chip: this is the chip that drives the LED, common ones are WS2801 and LPD6803. Both work well with the Galileo board. 

We went with this product, 32 pixels / meter with a WS2801 IC.

3. Determine your power needs

LEDs can be power hungry and you want to make sure you're selecting a power supply that can support this. In our case the power needs are 4.40 watts/meter.

Below, each panel has roughly 12 meters of LED which makes 56 watts at 5V.

4. Create the LED strips

We purchased 5m rolls of the LED strip and had to cut these down and solder on connectors. We also took the left over strips and soldered those together to minimize waste. As we were doing longer (5 meter+) continuous runs we also had to attach a few power injection connectors.

5. Load the software

We're still working through the exact details of how this setup will function, and how the lower level Linux features we're using will be shared with the public, but ultimate goal is to make it accessible to all users.

To keep wiring simple we choose to use one Galileo board per column and networked them together over ethernet. In general, you will need to make sure you have DHCP in your network or assign IP addresses. In our case we set the IP addresses in the Linux configuration. Be sure you plug into a router that has wifi.

The Lyt prototype uses Node.js, Socket.io configured in Linux and runs an Arduino sketch to drive the LED strips.

Instructions on how to set this up go here

Plug the LEDs into the power supply, plug the "green" line in to pin 11, "yellow" pin 13 and "black" into the ground pin (next to pin 13). Connect to the Galileo using USB and load the Arduino sketch using the IDE.

Then take out your phone and connect to the wifi, type in the ip address of the light in your browser, and start painting.

Side Note: An interesting aspect of Galileo is the presence of the Intel® Quark SoC X1000. Though still in testing, it's hoped that this technology may soon be used for wearables and other unusual tech/ design meldings. Another intriguing facet of Galileo is that it's able to fuse accessible Intel architecture development  with Windows*, Mac OS* and Linux* software host environments. This process allows for a streamlining of the process: enabling scalability and the use of pre-existing software libraries.

6. Build the panels

When building the final panels you want to consider what diffusion material to use. For the experience to be ambient you need to diffuse the individual bright LED "pixels" so they blur into each other. We tested with paper, fabric, and acrylic. In the end we choose acrylic to simplify construction, the acrylic itself becomes the frame. Depending on the look you are going for, you could make a simple wooden frame and stretch fabric over it too.

The LEDs we have are adhesive backed, so we incorporated a back panel to attach them to. To get a uniform diffusion, ensure you lay the LED's out in such away that the distance between the strips is the same as the distance from LED to LED on one strip. 

Debuting at Maker Faire Rome, as part of the roll out it was also announced Intel will be donating 50,000 Arduino-compatible development boards featuring Intel® Architecture to 1,000 universities around the world over the next 18 months.