Blinky balls at olympics

I finally watched the closing ceremonies yesterday (did not see them while at Burning Man, obviously.) I liked the blinky balls that the children and audience members had, and the sense that the flame lit the LED ball. But it was just manual, people pushed buttons.

It occured to me it would not be too expensive to make an LED blinky that worked a bit like flame. While it was on, it would transmit a particular signature code in its blinking. If another blinky got close enough to see this brightly enough, it would detect it and turn itself on for some period of time. You could tune the range, it's just a photoresistor.

That way they could "light" their neighbours the way a flame does, and the flame would pass along. With the range tuned to a few feet, the lighting would have propagated through the audience at some speed (you could define what the speed would be.)

This would also be a fun rave/party favour. You might be able to light your own or you could light from somebody else. Perhaps after too long alone the blinky would go out and need to be lighted from somebody else's, encouraging socialization.

Say, do you still have code (or at least remember the rules) for 'life'? Except for potential gridding issues, this sounds like a fun modernization, with all sorts of new opportunities for twists and complexities to be worked in as you suggest. Certainly the sensor network issues would seem to be well-solved.

There are some spokes for bikes (I saw 'em at
burning man) that do this::

Pretty cool effect.

- Bart

Brookstone ( offers a "frosted votive style 'candle'" with a "safe LED 'flame'" (their apostrophes) for $7. The advertising text claims that the "LED light flickers, making it look like a candle." The item identity is T456673.

I intend to use this for a model railroad scene. I've cobbled together my own circuit, but it costs $17 (the volume problem) and doesn't always flicker.

Hmm - seems like you are describing in hardware a similar system as the old flame/plasma demo effect. Actually, such a device could look and act pretty cool if each person had one...

Comment viewing options

Select your preferred way to display the comments and click "Save settings" to activate your changes.

Post new comment

His name is Brad Templeton. You figure it out.
Please make up a name if you do not wish to give your real one.
The content of this field is kept private and will not be shown publicly.
Personal home pages only. Posts with biz home pages get deleted and search engines ignore all links
  • Allowed HTML tags: <a> <em> <strong> <cite> <code> <ul> <ol> <li> <dl> <dt> <dd>
  • Web page addresses and e-mail addresses turn into links automatically.
  • Lines and paragraphs break automatically.

More information about formatting options