This year’s theme at Burning Man is “Carnival of Mirrors.” I thought: I can build a mirror. These are my first steps.

I was inspired first by the combination of two projects. First is Adafruit’s 1500 pixel blinky curtain. This massive number of pixels are made manageable by the Fadecandy board. From the inventor’s page (linked left): “The Fadecandy Controller hardware drives up to 512 LEDs, arranged as 8 logical strips of up to 64 LEDs each. It connects to a laptop, Raspberry Pi, or other embedded computer over USB.”

Image by Micah Elizabeth Scott

Image by Micah Elizabeth Scott

The next inspiration is a piece I’ve seen online (and lost) of a camera + Raspberry Pi + LED array mirror. Apparently there’s also one at the Exploratorium but I haven’t seen it.

The idea is to feed a video camera’s image to a big LED array (perhaps 50×30 pixels) so that the participant’s image is reflected in a highly pixelated, mediated version. Lots of diffusion, no visible pixels; this is the post-pixel era. The Fadecandy drives new-style Adafruit LED strips.

First, a brief review of blinky tech evolution. Once upon a time, LED strips had two leads, one for clock and one for data. The new style strips have only one lead for data. This is better, but that means that the first prototype is Arduino-based, not Fadecandy-based. I had a bunch of the old style strips around, so I cut them into 6-pixel lengths, and made this.


All the usual pieces are there: a voltage regulator, a power bus (on the breadboard), an Arduino Mega, and lots of poxy soldering. On top I added a diffuser made of translucent rocks.

Ok, that’s the basic idea. I have a lot more work to do on the diffuser. Diffusion paper? Rag vellum? HDPE? Not solved yet.

The next step is to test the Fadecandy. This was way, way easier than I expected:

The Adafruit tutorial on Fadecandy, the Fadecandy server, and the Processing language make this essentially trivial. Next up: a 10×6 array connected to the Fadecandy, in a proper frame, integrating the camera and Pi, and better diffusers.