Ping Pong Ball Wall Envy

I’m always amazed by the way in which one factor appears to result in one other; additionally, how belongings you would assume to be completely disparate oftentimes turn into interrelated in extraordinary methods.

Sure. You’re proper. I ought to present an instance. How we could begin? What’s that you just say? “Ping pong balls”? Effectively, it’s humorous you must counsel that as a subject as a result of — by some unusual quirk of destiny — ping pong balls have been a lot on my thoughts of late.

This all began deep within the mists of time we used to name early 2019 once I ran throughout this video of a ping pong ball clock. The thought is that every ping pong ball is illuminated utilizing a tricolor LED.

Previous to this, I’d by no means actually considered utilizing ping pong balls on this means, however — as I all the time say — “Present me a flashing LED, and I’ll present you a person drooling.”

On this case, the balls have been introduced in a hexagonal “honeycomb” association. This has the benefit of protecting any unilluminated areas as small as doable, however it does imply the font is a tad interpretive, because it have been.

After all, when you could have a show like this, it’s troublesome to restrain your self to displaying solely time. As seen in this video, it’s not lengthy earlier than its creators discovered themselves experimenting with further results.

When you’ve been uncovered to the world of ping pong ball shows, it’s exhausting to cease your self from looking for out extra. Thus, it wasn’t lengthy earlier than I ran throughout a man who goes below the moniker Bitluni and who created a 20 x 15 = 300 ping pong show utilizing WS2828 LEDs. As we see in this video, Bitluni’s show is actually moderately sharp.

The factor is that I’m simply distracted…. SQUIRREL!!! Thus, it wasn’t lengthy earlier than another flashing trinket caught my eye and I wandered off to do different issues.

Now, chances are you’ll or might not know that I write a month-to-month Cool Beans column for Practical Electronics (PE), which is the UK’s premier electronics, computing, hobbyist, and maker journal. As destiny would have it, earlier this yr, I began writing a miniseries of columns on LEDs. Initially, I used to be desiring to concentrate on the tricolor WS2812 LEDs utilized in my Prognostication Engine undertaking, however then I bought… SQUIRREL!!!

Max MaxfieldFig1_Prognostication-Engine.png
The Prognostication Engine.

I began to ponder the various kinds of info one might convey, and the completely different results one might obtain, utilizing a single throw, single pole (SPST) swap at the side of a single unicolor LED. As soon as I’d began, I couldn’t cease myself. Over the course of a few columns, we experimented with SPST switches and single unicolor, bicolor, and tricolor LEDs, adopted by SPST switches with twin unicolor, bicolor, and tricolor LEDs.

Subsequent, we moved to think about single-pole, twin throw (SPDT) switches with single and twin unicolor, bicolor, and tricolor LEDs. We additionally checked out single-pole, middle off (SPCO) switches, that are often known as single-pole, changeover switches. These are toggle or rocker switches that behave in an On-Off-On style.

There are all kinds of issues we are able to do with tricolor LEDs. For instance, think about using an SPCO swap at the side of a single tricolor LED as proven beneath. On this case, we are able to use the colours pink and inexperienced to point if the swap is in its inactive or energetic states, respectively. Additionally, we are able to use colours like orange and yellow to point that the swap is at present in its center-off-state, with the completely different colours indicating the swap’s earlier state.

Max MaxfieldFig2_SPCO-switch.png
An SPCO swap with a single tricolor LED.

After all, we should always observe that the conference of a swap in its down place being off and its up place being on is the way in which issues usually work within the USA. It’s the opposite means round within the UK, and you are taking your probabilities in the remainder of the world, however we digress.

I need to admit that I used to be amazed by what number of emails these articles triggered from world wide. I used to be particularly impressed by the variety of of us who mentioned that they had been impressed to buy an Arduino microcontroller growth board and begin experimenting themselves.

One such message got here from a retired engineer referred to as David R. Humrich, who hangs his hat in Perth, Australia, and who ended his first e-mail saying, “I wished you to know that a complete new world is opening for me and it is all your fault!”

Effectively, David bought his personal again a short while later, as a result of he despatched a follow-up e-mail saying he’d bought a 5 x eight array of WS2812 LEDs and he was questioning what to do with it. As a part of my reply, I took this video of a bit of “Worm”  program I’d created yonks in the past randomly working its means round an eight x eight array right here in my workplace.

Sadly, this brought about me to start out questioning what such a program would seem like on a ping pong ball array. In flip, this tempted me to find out how a lot ping pong balls value, and I used to be amazed to find you can buy 144 balls for only $11 on Amazon. After all, these aren’t of a top quality you’d use to really play ping pong, however they’re excellent for creating LED shows.

Effectively, it could take a stronger-willed man than your humble narrator to withstand a discount like this, so I instantly ordered two luggage (in case I wanted spares). I used to be tempted to construct a 15 x 15 = 225 ball array, however I restrained myself to a 12 x 12 = 144 ball prototype, and I’m so glad I did as a result of this took for much longer than I’d anticipated. Suffice it to say that if I resolve to construct a bigger model sooner or later, I’ll do issues very in a different way. Within the meantime, you possibly can take a look at numerous movies related to this construct on my Cool Beans YouTube Channel.

Ultimately, I used to be the proud possessor of my very personal 12 x 12 ping pong ball array. I flatter myself that it’s the best one within the neighborhood the place I stay (LOL).

Max MaxfieldFig3-Max-w-Frame.png
Oh, the joy of holding your first ping pong ball array.

Whereas I give it some thought, one factor I ought to observe is that I’m driving this bodacious magnificence utilizing a Seeeduino XIAO microcontroller. Though it’s no greater than an everyday postage stamp, the Seeeduino XIAO boasts a 32-bit Arm Cortex-M0+ processor operating at 48 MHz with 256 KB of flash reminiscence and 32 KB of SRAM. Even higher, it prices solely $four.90 and it may be programmed utilizing the Arduino built-in growth setting (my cup runneth over).

I used to be fortunately programming my array when my chum, Ted Fried, who’s an FPGA designer at Apple, urged I maintain a contest. Ted’s concept was that folks might write packages to run on my array and e-mail then them to me. I’d then run the packages on my array, video them operating, and publish the outcomes to YouTube. Ultimately, we might all vote to find out which packages supply the best and/or most attention-grabbing and/or most spectacular results.

There was only one small flaw with this crafty plan, which is that it could be nearly inconceivable to create and debug such a program with out having an array to run it on, which type of defeated the purpose of the train.

To chop a protracted story quick, we got here up with an much more crafty concept, which was to make use of the Arduino’s Serial Monitor as a type of simulator. The intelligent half right here was carried out by my friends at Alorium Technology, who created a NeoPixel_Simulator library. This implies you possibly can write a program as in the event you have been going to make use of Adafruit’s NeoPixel library, however as a substitute of utilizing the assertion “#embrace ” to make use of the NeoPixel library, we use “#embrace ” to drive the simulator. The remainder of this system stays “as-is,” which is Cool Beans whichever means you have a look at it.

The workings of the simulator, together with the place to acquire a free copy, are documented in excruciating element in this column. For the second, nevertheless, feast your eyes on this video displaying a “Worm” programming operating on the true array and on the simulator.

However wait, there’s extra, as a result of I simply found that, as seen in this video the nefarious Bitluni first went on to create a 40 x 30 = 1200 ball array. Extra not too long ago, as seen in this video, the overachieving Bitluni has created a 48 x 40 = 1920 ball array.

I can consider so many issues I might do with a 1920 ball array. For instance, are you able to think about enjoying a recreation of Tetris on such a ping pong ball wall? Suppose you used synthetic intelligence (AI) and machine imaginative and prescient to look at your fingers and use these to regulate the sport — gestures made along with your proper hand may very well be used to maneuver the falling items left or proper, whereas your left hand may very well be used to rotate them as they fall.

On the one hand (no pun meant), I’m very pleased with my 12 x 12 array, not least that it’s sufficiently small that my spouse (Gina the Attractive) doesn’t thoughts me having it in the home. Nonetheless, I concern Gina would draw the road at my developing a 48 x 40 array on the wall of our household room. Nonetheless and all, as they are saying, I concern I’m experiencing ping pong ball wall envy (and it’s not usually you count on to listen to your self say that). How about you? Might you be tempted to construct a ping pong ball array of your individual?

Clive “Max” Maxfield acquired his B.Sc. in Management Engineering from Sheffield Hallam College in England in 1980. He started his profession as a designer of central processing items (CPUs) for mainframe computer systems. Over time, Max has designed all kinds of attention-grabbing “stuff” from silicon chips to circuit boards and brainwave amplifiers to Steampunk Prognostication Engines (do not ask). He has additionally been on the forefront of digital design automation (EDA) for greater than 30 years. Already a famous writer of over a half-dozen books, Max is all the time considering of his subsequent undertaking. He would significantly like to put in writing for teenagers, introducing them to engineering and computer systems in a enjoyable and thrilling means. For that is what units “Max” Maxfield aside: It isn’t simply what he is aware of, however how he relates it to the learner.

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