Impact Lab

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October 14th, 2006 at 8:16 pm

Introducing the Hypnocube

While the Hypnocube will not exactly allow you to hypnotize your friends and make them forget the number six, but it will put on one hell of a show.

The hypnocube is a 3D lattice of colored LEDs, animated with cool visualizations, purely for artistic purposes at the moment (although we have plenty of direction and ideas for more uses). Think of them as the digital equivalent of a lava lamp – no real purpose other than to look cool.


They sell 2 main types of cubes: 3-channel and 2-channel. The number of channels is the number of independent colors the LED is wired to produce. We then mix these colors at varying amounts, providing 8 levels of color per channel. Thus 2 channels give 8×8 = 256 colors, and 3 channels gives 8x8x8 = 4096 colors. The 3 channel color has red, green, and blue channels, allowing a very rich palette of colors. There are two versions of the 2-channel cubes: a red-green cube with diffuse LEDs, making the colors smooth, and a red-blue cube with clear LEDs, giving bright, point lights.

4x4x4 LED cube hardware features:

  • Runs up to 64 three color channel LEDs (for a total of 192 individually addressable LEDs), with 16 color levels per color channel. Thus a 2-color cube has 256 colors, and the RGB cube has 4096 colors!
  • Runs on PIC18F4620, which has 64K ROM, 3.8K RAM, and runs at 32MHZ (8 MIPS). We have only half filled it so far – more to come.
  • Simple usage – plug it in to the wall and it goes!
  • Hackable – program your own cube to do what you want (difficult though!).
  • Expandable – general purpose IO pins and a UART exported.
  • Controller board is general purpose – it is useful for driving all sorts of LED projects.
4x4x4 LED cube software features:

  • 50 basic effects (51 in the 3-channel RGB cube).
  • 10+ transition effects.
  • Variable speed randomly smoothed along random paths.
  • Dynamic palette morphing for smooth color effects.
  • Arbitrary symmetry and affine transform mappings performed dynamically.
  • Color, timing, symmetry, and transition randomization for creating unique visualizations on the fly.
  • 32-bit random cycle seed saved between power-ups almost guarantees never repeating visualization cycle.
  • Created with 10,000 lines of C code, and several hundred of assembler.
  • Code is third complete rewrite, so is polished and very generalized for future expansion.
  • Three 8-bit channels of color computed internally, then dithered down to 4096 colors on the RGB cube, and 256 on the 2 color cubes.
  • Displays over 6000 image updates a second to modulate the colors.
  • Code cross compiles to PIC and Win32
  • Uses a custom fixed-point 3D engine for image generation, along with numerous hand crafted sprites and animations.
  • Contains a hidden easter egg!


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