What kind of LEDs are these? ("Twinkly" lights)

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I was very impressed by the videos so just ordered two sets of these:

 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=...

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=...

https://www.twinkly.com/experience/

 

manufactured by:

 

https://www.twinkly.com/multi-co...

 

But does anyone have any idea what the technology behind this is? Clearly the RGB LEDs are each individually addressable/controllable but apparently the entire thing is done on a 3 strand cable in which two of the wires must presumably be power and ground. So what's going on with the 3rd wire? Is this just like strings of WS2812 and so it's just one long serial shift register? Or is there something else to this?

 

Clearly the real "clever bit" is using the phone camera to detect the physical position of every light during "mapping" and then light it at the right point in the timing sequence to show the various patterns/text/pictures etc. during playback.

 

I just wonder how feasible it is to do something like this one's self ? So far I can't find anything that will admit to how they've actually implemented this.

 

Or to put it another way, does anyone have experience of WS2812 based strips and think this is "do-able" using those?

 

But the thing is the LEDs in these lights are like individual, stand-alone LEDs, not just elements on a strip:

 

 

Also, if that picture from their site is to be believed it even suggests just 2 contacts, not 3 ?!? How can that work - could it really be modulating a power pin or something?

This topic has a solution.

Last Edited: Fri. Jan 1, 2021 - 02:38 PM
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I would have hazarded a guess that the depiction of a 2-pin LED is just 'stock', for the benefit of the user who wouldn't know what to make of a depiction of a 4-pin LED, and does not reflect the actual LEDs used.

 

You say it uses a 3-strand wire, where did you determine that?

 

I found this:

https://cdn.shopify.com/s/files/1/2614/6954/products/3_faf3f1db-abc6-4688-8b9f-470779309aa1_1024x1024@2x.png?v=1600892116

 

... which does indeed suggest only a two-wire interface.

 

Intriguing.

 

To answer your question, yes I think this would be doable with WS2812 strings.  As you say, the heavy lifting is in the smart phone app.

Attachment(s): 

"Experience is what enables you to recognise a mistake the second time you make it."

"Good judgement comes from experience.  Experience comes from bad judgement."

"Wisdom is always wont to arrive late, and to be a little approximate on first possession."

"When you hear hoofbeats, think horses, not unicorns."

"Fast.  Cheap.  Good.  Pick two."

"We see a lot of arses on handlebars around here." - [J Ekdahl]

 

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joeymorin wrote:
You say it uses a 3-strand wire, where did you determine that?
This one:

 

https://youtu.be/HbvuwfRMe7E?t=53

 

EDIT: Note that there have been "Generation I" and "Gen II" - it's possible it may have gone from 2 to 3 at that step?? (but that would still raise the question of how it's done with 2).

Last Edited: Wed. Dec 2, 2020 - 05:25 PM
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How cool!

 

Another option, since the gentleman on the first video said it just connects to his WiFi, is that every LED has its own ESP8266 / equivalent chip embedded within the LED!

 

JC

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DocJC wrote:
is that every LED has its own ESP8266 / equivalent chip embedded within the LED!
I know they are "expensive" as far as Christmas lights go (a string of 250 are about $150) but even with economies of scale I don't think you can get ESP8266 and the RGB LED together for about $0.60 each! cheeky

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clawson wrote:

This one:

If you look carefully, although the connectors out from the 'Y' harness to the strings are 3-pin, and the strings also appear to be 3-pin, there are only 2 wires leading from the 'Y' harness to each of those 3-pin connectors.

"Experience is what enables you to recognise a mistake the second time you make it."

"Good judgement comes from experience.  Experience comes from bad judgement."

"Wisdom is always wont to arrive late, and to be a little approximate on first possession."

"When you hear hoofbeats, think horses, not unicorns."

"Fast.  Cheap.  Good.  Pick two."

"We see a lot of arses on handlebars around here." - [J Ekdahl]

 

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Hmmm:

https://forums.parallax.com/discussion/156081/polypixels-driving-ws2812b-addressable-leds-using-2-wires

 

That's a pretty clever approach.  I wonder if that's what's going on in the 'Twinkly' lights...

 

Just a diode across VCC (cathode) and DIN (anode), and a cap across VCC/GND.  Two-wire connection via GND/DIN.  This approach would require constant updates to the string, in order to ensure that the cap stays charged (DIN is normally idled low, which would cut off the charging source for the cap).  It would also require fairly significant drive strength to handle more than one or two LEDs in the chain.  I expect it would also generate significant EMI (800 kHz fundamental and lots of harmonics) at the drive levels needed.  Note the ferrite bead in the photo in #2.

 

They seem to be called PolyPixels, but I can't find any other reference to them, nor a proper schematic or detailed discussion.  Might be a fun diversion of the holidays ;-)

 

EDIT:  Here's a cached page that touches on it:

https://webcache.googleusercontent.com/search?q=cache:yhzX9oRNZDYJ:https://www.resepkuini.com/example-wiring-diagram-for-controlling-a-ws2812b-led-strip-with-a-force-sensing-linear/+&cd=2&hl=en&ct=clnk&gl=ca&client=ubuntu

"Experience is what enables you to recognise a mistake the second time you make it."

"Good judgement comes from experience.  Experience comes from bad judgement."

"Wisdom is always wont to arrive late, and to be a little approximate on first possession."

"When you hear hoofbeats, think horses, not unicorns."

"Fast.  Cheap.  Good.  Pick two."

"We see a lot of arses on handlebars around here." - [J Ekdahl]

 

Last Edited: Wed. Dec 2, 2020 - 07:22 PM
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VERY cool...didn't watch all the video

 

Wonder if you can have a (coarse) scroll text message?...the ultimate "merry xmas" on your tree!!!

When in the dark remember-the future looks brighter than ever.   I look forward to being able to predict the future!

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Here we go:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WLXnCaXX7w4

He gets the o'scope out at about 3:27.

These appear not to be individually addressable like the 'Twinkly' lights.  Neither does the encoding seem to resemble that used by the WS2812.

"Trouble is, I >>am<< a nerd.  I want to know how they work!"

 

EDIT:

An update from the same chap:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gxdgRHmOuIo

With a brief diverting discussion about solder sponges, he cracks it... well, at least partially... and he's missed that his 'scope is on 'auto' trigger mode :-(

He hasn't figured out the intensity encoding.  Maybe he'll post another video eventually, but this last one was 4 years ago.

 

He does link to someone else's experiments:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iuZZxOvY9Ls

... but that fellow doesn't get any further towards decoding the whole protocol, but he does manage to confuse them enough for the LEDs to get out of sync.

 

The 'Twinkly' lights might be some variation on these, allowing chaining.

 

 

"Experience is what enables you to recognise a mistake the second time you make it."

"Good judgement comes from experience.  Experience comes from bad judgement."

"Wisdom is always wont to arrive late, and to be a little approximate on first possession."

"When you hear hoofbeats, think horses, not unicorns."

"Fast.  Cheap.  Good.  Pick two."

"We see a lot of arses on handlebars around here." - [J Ekdahl]

 

Last Edited: Wed. Dec 2, 2020 - 07:58 PM
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avrcandies wrote:
Wonder if you can have a (coarse) scroll text message?.
Yup. Because you can draw "pixel patterns" onto the lights/tree I have seen videos where people have drawn single letters. Now I actually have two conifer trees either side of my front door which I have traditionally dressed up in just "plain lights" (usually blue LED in fact). So what I have in mind is synchronising the two trees then playing a pattern where one leads the other playing one "letter" at a time and I'm hoping I might have able to get "Happy Christmas" to scroll across the front door. Or at least that's the plan!

joeymorin wrote:
he cracks it... well, at least partially...
Wow, well done Sherlock! I've been googling for a while to try and find out more about the technology but failing to find anything - though admittedly I probably didn't pay enough attention to YouTube content (which is ironic as these days a larger proportion of what I watch are YouTube videos)

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Have you tried googling the security of these things ... ?

 

surprise

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So I read:

 

https://www.bleepingcomputer.com...

 

which concludes:

 

Considering these security faults, it would be easy for an attacker on the network to intercept the communication between the Twinkly lights and the mobile app and use them to manipulate the LEDs into custom patterns or turn them off.

 

My first thought therefore is "so what?". If someone is that desperate to draw patterns on my lights and finds themselves in Finchingfield then so be it.

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More risky is that it seems they can (or could?)  "leak" your WiFi credentials

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clawson wrote:

My first thought therefore is "so what?". If someone is that desperate to draw patterns on my lights and finds themselves in Finchingfield then so be it.

What if the attackers make your two conifers tell the neighbourhood to 'Feck off!" devil

 

Or, does anyone in your house ave epilepsy?

 

Every tool is a weapon, if you hold it right.

"Experience is what enables you to recognise a mistake the second time you make it."

"Good judgement comes from experience.  Experience comes from bad judgement."

"Wisdom is always wont to arrive late, and to be a little approximate on first possession."

"When you hear hoofbeats, think horses, not unicorns."

"Fast.  Cheap.  Good.  Pick two."

"We see a lot of arses on handlebars around here." - [J Ekdahl]

 

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joeymorin wrote:
What if the attackers make your two conifers tell the neighbourhood to 'Feck off!"
I've been thinking of doing that myself - there are some very unpleasant people live in this village !! surprise

 

More generally I think a "Feck Off Grockles" may be even more appropriate. We are inundated with potential plague carriers here simply because there's a duck pond - I'd be more than happy to see the back of them.

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clawson wrote:
Grockles

Didn't know that term carried so far East!

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We like the term "grockles" because, rather than simply meaning "tourists", it has more of a "tourists that we hate with a vengeance" connotation that is quite appropriate.

 

(they take all our parking spaces and the most amusing thing is how they treat the whole place like Disneyland - trying to peer in through people's windows to see how us "yokels" live - luckily our downstairs, front windows are too high for them to get to but some of my neighbours are not so lucky).

 

Also, in a time of pandemic, they come here and after 5 minutes wander aimlessly around the village on the basis of "is that it? a duckpond and some ducks? what else?" - we daren't go out of the house in daylight hours for fear of getting too close to these plague carriers who don't seem to care where they might spread it (even when they were supposed to be "locked down"!)

 

When my outside Twinkly lights arrive I'm planning a very early start, at the crack of dawn, to get out and fix the lights before anyone else is around!

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This link talks about mapping each LED with OpenCV; if that can be done, then figuring out the address/offset should be doable.

 

https://hackaday.com/2020/11/03/...

 

My new word for the day :-) grockles

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Mr Angry from Finchingfield!
(If you remember the Kenny Everett character)

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One of the advantages of age is that it is a given that one is expected to be a grumpy old git. So I'm simply conforming to stereotype ;-)

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Conforming to that stereotype seems to be getting easier and easier!

 

Jim

 

Until Black Lives Matter, we do not have "All Lives Matter"!

 

 

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Since they are 24V, that gives plenty of headroom to modulate a data signal over the power and still be well over the ~3V forward voltage of blue/white LEDs.  My guess is they each have a unique ID address, with support for address masking.  The app could then turn on all the lights matching 1 address bit at a time, so if the address is 32-bit, 64 scans would identify each individual LED.

 

I have no special talents.  I am only passionately curious. - Albert Einstein

 

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WooHoo, mysterious package found on doorstep. It contains two..

 

Each box containing..

 

 

After connecting each to wifi and upgrading firmware then just trying them as an amorphous pile in the middle of the floor I wound each set onto wooden frames that recently came as part of the packaging for a new dishwasher..

 

 

Then after optically mapping and setting up each set separately I got the control software to put them into a synchronized group so in this they are showing a moving rainbow falling  from top to bottom in exact synchronization...

 

 

They are insanely bright and some of the patterns will probably invoke epilepsy at 100 yards. This is going to be fun!

 

(I'll probably make square/rectangular layout on outdoor trees rather than triangle/tree shaped because the patterns will work better).

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clawson wrote:
upgrading firmware

laugh

 

So instead of having to faff about finding the loose/blown bulbs, you now have to faff around updating the firmware on your Christmas lights.

 

So much for progress ...

 

frown

 

Anyhow, just off to update my festive BLE-controlled RGB spectacles ...

 

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clawson wrote:
upgrading firmware
How many Gigabytes did that take? 

 

 

(Possum Lodge oath) Quando omni flunkus, moritati.

"I thought growing old would take longer"

 

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They are insanely bright

Looking at the local decorations, I've almost come to the conclusion that modern LEDs are TOO bright to use for decorations at full brightness.  (especially if the setup includes both incandescent AND LED lights.

I'm waiting for the first vendor to have "subtle" mode to leave on all the time, as well as ULTRA-BRIGHT PARTY TIME...

 

 

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Cliff,

if you put those outside your house will become a grockle attraction for sure.

People will be bringing ladders to be able to look inside your house too then.

 

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westfw wrote:
I'm waiting for the first vendor to have "subtle" mode to leave on all the time,
Wait no longer! Whatever patterns you happen to have each set/group has an overriding...

 

 

So you can simply wind the overall brightness right down.

 

This whole thing smacks of very "polished design" and well thought out control and user interface. The only thing that's thrown me so far is that once you have grouped sets it seems you cannot re-map them. Then I was faced with "how do you delete a group" to start over again. Luckily I had already watched the series of 15 Youtube videos and remembered about:

 

 

But how someone coming to this app with out having watched that video would know there were "hidden" options like delete/rename that were only accessible with a swipe I have no idea. I realise they want to "protect" such options from accidental usage as you can lose a lot of previous "setup" if you delete a group but hiding the options behind a gesture that you may not even know exists is perhaps protection taken just a step too far?

 

Actually the UI reminds me of the frustration of trying to use anything Apple have ever designed!! In fact the whole thing feels very "Apple like". Very slick and professional looking if you just want to scrape the surface but an absolute nightmare if you want to access any kind of "power user" functionality. That's Apple right down to a tee!

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So Cliff,  Have you eMailed the company yet to ask for their Sofware Developer's Kit?

 

You can then place the "Don't touch these unless you really know what you are doing" options under their own tab, but right at your fingertiips!

 

JC 

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Doc,

 

I have been wondering how feasible it might be to map PNG/JPEG to the lights. If one set is 250 lights then it's something like 16x16. If one combined two sets to be 500 lights then its roughly 22x22. But to do such a thing one would, indeed, need to know more about internal data storage, APIs etc

 

I'd like to display..

 

 

Even though that's 24x24 I'm guessing most people can tell it's a cat (and not just any cat!). Blown up to a grid of lights..

 

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DocJC wrote:
Sofware Developer's Kit?

https://xled-docs.readthedocs.io/en/latest/readme.html

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A very nice cat photo, albeit a bit blury...  wink

 

Actually, to recognize the image at a low resolution you would have to put the leds much closer together, a much tighter array, than is shown with the dishwasher shipping crate setup.

 

Andy, nice link.

So, much of the leg work has already been done!

 

JC

 

Edit: A typo or two

 

 

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Well this took longer than I planned.

First I tried to figure out how to arrange the lights even using Excel to figure the best "spread" (which appeared to be +2 on each row)... 

 

But I decided rectangular (21 row of 12 requires 252) is a better spread...

 

 

So next I made medieval instruments of torture (support bars).. 

 

 

All of which finally led to... 

 

https://youtu.be/56i-tdojNvA

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Wow, nice job.

 

Love the rainbow waterfall, and the twinkling candy cane.

 

JC

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There's about 40 different effect patterns to play with but for an initial playlist I just went for 30 seconds of three of them. So more fun yet to come! Still learning what's possible at this stage. The main thing maybe where you "draw" a new pattern on your mobile /tablet touch screen and see it immediately appear on the lights but the drawing sequence can also be recorded and later replayed.

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Set a few more patterns and made another video.
.
https://youtu.be/hrI4XVoo4ko
.
Video quality is not great so I'm tempted to open Xiaomi 10T Lite 5G that was delivered yesterday as it has 64MP sensor and can do 4K 60fps.

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I thought you didn't like people in your village, now all the rubber neckers will stand in front of your house. wink

John Samperi

Ampertronics Pty. Ltd.

https://www.ampertronics.com.au

* Electronic Design * Custom Products * Contract Assembly

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The neighbors display now pales in comparison, beware of revenge or escalation of the light wars!

 

 

 

(Possum Lodge oath) Quando omni flunkus, moritati.

"I thought growing old would take longer"

 

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You mean something like this?

 

John Samperi

Ampertronics Pty. Ltd.

https://www.ampertronics.com.au

* Electronic Design * Custom Products * Contract Assembly

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js wrote:

I thought you didn't like people in your village, now all the rubber neckers will stand in front of your house. wink

 

Think of it less as rubber neckers and more as a target rich environment...

 

Neil

 

edit: p.s. Cliff, put the bloody phone on its side!

Last Edited: Fri. Dec 18, 2020 - 09:22 PM
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John, see those moose head glasses in the Griswold picture? We've got those ;-)
.
Neil, yeah I know exactly what you mean. Every time there's some "event" on the news that people have caught on mobiles its always portrait so the news broadcasters show it with "fill" to left/right to try and make a 16:9 out of it and I shout at the telly "turn the bloody phone to landscape as God intended". Then I went and did the same myself. I even knew at the time as I did it but the display is kind of "tall and thin" so I thought portrait might be best.

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I am absolutely going to have to get some of these for our new RV when we get it.   I was sure I posted this once.

 

But RV's gotta have lots of lights.

 

 

How does the software know which light is in which position?  Or is that set and you can't change it?  Like, how many lights per row, is that a fixed number or do you tell the controller after you installed them?

 

I was thinking of getting several of those addressable LED light strips from Amazon, they're getting pretty cheap now.  That would allow me to create (hopefully) something I could display rough graphics or messages on.

 

But these might be easier going.

Just gettin' started, again....

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Once you layout the lights you then use the camera in your phone via the app. It instructs each LED to light in various colours and recognises its relative position to the other LEDs then can map the patterns to that. To be honest it's a work of pure genius: While I've had the odd moment with the app, having to restart it and sometimes losing a playlist edit or whatever I can forgive it that as the overall idea us utterly brilliant even if they are astronomically expensive.  But during Covid what else are you going to spend $400..500 on anyway?

Last Edited: Sun. Dec 20, 2020 - 01:13 AM
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Oh that is brilliant.  Easy too (for end user).

 

That's it, gonna have to get some.  Get the RV sign done first, just about there.  Have to wait on a voltage regulator, maybe Jan.5  Board is etched, drilled and ready to go.

Just gettin' started, again....

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clawson wrote:

Once you layout the lights you then use the camera in your phone via the app. It instructs each LED to light in various colours and recognises its relative position to the other LEDs then can map the patterns to that.

 

Presumably it's also pretty fast.  Having to hold the phone nearly completely still for ten minutes would sorta defeat the purpose.  How fast is it?  S.

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OldMicroGuy wrote:

I was thinking of getting several of those addressable LED light strips from Amazon, they're getting pretty cheap now.  That would allow me to create (hopefully) something I could display rough graphics or messages on.

 

Check this out:  Uses an arduino, and lots and lots of programmable LEDs...

 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=...

 

Probably wacky overkill for an RV sign, but whaddaIknow?  laugh  S.

 

Edited to add:  That video's four years old.  Pricing may not be what it used to be.  S.

Last Edited: Sun. Dec 20, 2020 - 02:19 PM
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Scroungre wrote:
Probably wacky overkill for an RV sign, but whaddaIknow?  laugh  S.

 

Not sure there is such a thing as wacky overkill when it comes to LEDs and RVs.   It's long though.  I was thinking taller and shorter.  Like, fit in the front windshield/windscreen.   Lots of people put stuff like that up there to kinda let other people know who they are, subtle insights of the people in the RV.

 

I installed some bare bones RGB strips in the cabin.  They looked OK, but the TV remote also changed the color/function of the LEDs.  Hit the mute and the lights turn red, or green, or go into flash mode.   Pretty annoying after a while.  I changed those out for some RGBW LED strips, using aluminum channel and a diffuser.  Looks SO much better, like they were from the factory like that.

Installed white strips under the cabinets in the kitchen.  Some more RGB's under the RV (boogie lights, nice to have at night don't need a flashlight to dump the tanks).  More RGB's under the awning.   And probably some I forgot about.

 

Just gettin' started, again....

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The mapping process takes about 30 seconds. it cycle each LED through a sequence of about 10 colors changing at a 3 second increment. I have seen a suggestion that it is "better" if you use a tripod mount for the phone but the results have been perfect just hand holding.

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purely out of interest, did you ever find out what type of LEDs they are?

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Nope but at least we know the "clever bit" is an ESP32 (probably should have guessed!)

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Found this complete analysis of the system.

https://labs.f-secure.com/blog/t...

Hack away.

"If you find yourself in an even battle, you didn't plan very well."
https://www.gameactive.org
https://github.com/CmdrZin

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