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We’ve posted about Phillips’ Ambilight (Wikipedia) real-time multicolor display backlighting system, and various DIY versions thereof, before (see below). If you’re not familiar with the idea, watch a few seconds of the embedded video, as it’s hard to appreciate the effect from still images. If you believe the hype, this kind of dynamic backlighting improves viewing by making it more “immersive” and reducing “backlight bleed.” In any case, it’s certainly cool-looking.

Adafruit recently posted this excellent step-by PC Ambilight clone from talented builder and writer Phillip Burgess. Naturally, Ladyada would like to sell you the parts, but it’s all open source and the components—a strand of WS2801 individually-addressable RGB leds, an Arduino, a power adapter, a USB cable, white reflective sheet stock, tape, and a few other odds and ends—are widely available. Arduino sketches and Processing code are free, natch, at Github. [Thanks, PT!]

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Sean Michael Ragan

I am descended from 5,000 generations of tool-using primates. Also, I went to college and stuff. I write for MAKE, serve as Technical Editor for MAKE magazine, and develop original DIY content for Make: Projects.


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Comments

  1. Welly-welly-well!  They have combined the Light Organ of the 70′s with the TV light of the 50′s.  That said, it makes for a very cool effect.

  2. srmoore says:

    So, not to stir up a hornets nest but… Philips has (or has filed for) a patent on its ambilight technology. (I haven’t been able to find out of it has been granted or not in the 2 minutes of googling.)

    I don’t want to stir up a debate on patents in general, but have a question on OSHW and selling OSHW implementations of things that are covered by an existing patent. I understand that perhaps you can put this information out there for people to build their own, but isn’t selling the hardware to do this sort of thing an infringement?

    I’m not a lawyer, but feel that this sort of discussion hasn’t happened much, or hasn’t been covered much. I’d really like to see Make or someone else get some lawyer’s perspective on this type of situation. I like the idea of OSHW and OSS, but when you are clearly trampling on ground that is potentially covered by someone’s patent there are certainly legal questions that pop up. This is especially true once you cross the line into selling things potentially covered by the patent.

    1. srmoore says:

      Granted all Adafruit is selling is the lights and power pack, you need the extra hardware to make it work. But I think it is still a valid question for the OSHW community.

      1. Anonymous says:

        @twitter-13958292:disqus  i work with MAKE and adafruit, and i’ve covered/been part of, the oshw community for a long long time – so i’m not sure if you’d consider me objective about this. but if you’d like i’ll certainly discuss this. it’s a good topic for sure!

        keep in mind you’ve said 1) you’re not a lawyer 2) you didn’t spend more than 2 minutes of googling so 3) you actually cannot say anyone is “clearly trampling on ground that is potentially covered by someone’s patent”.

        as you also said, adafruit is selling components to make something (and many things) not a tv in best buy that does the same thing.

      2. Anonymous says:

        @twitter-13958292:disqus  i work with MAKE and adafruit, and i’ve covered/been part of, the oshw community for a long long time – so i’m not sure if you’d consider me objective about this. but if you’d like i’ll certainly discuss this. it’s a good topic for sure!

        keep in mind you’ve said 1) you’re not a lawyer 2) you didn’t spend more than 2 minutes of googling so 3) you actually cannot say anyone is “clearly trampling on ground that is potentially covered by someone’s patent”.

        as you also said, adafruit is selling components to make something (and many things) not a tv in best buy that does the same thing.

        1. srmoore says:

          @ptorrone:disqus I think it would be beneficial to have at least a starting point for people in the oshw community who might want to move into selling things they have created as oshw. Certainly selling implementations of projects people come up with is a good way to keep them involved in those projects, and as a maker myself who might be starting some oshw projects I’d love a quick rundown of “At what point should I look to see if I’m infringing on a patent? Is it only if I’m selling a complete unit that is a ‘clone’ of another system? Or is selling a kit, or even publishing anything about it considered infringement?” (I do believe that just publishing isn’t infringement, nor is selling parts and providing information, as most patents have a lot of detail in them in the first place, but then again I am not a lawyer.)

          I also think that as the oshw community grows in both people and projects, we’ll probably see at some point a legal challenge along these lines, so it can’t hurt to at least talk about it now.

          Also just to clear up another point: I do really like Adafruit’s implementation here, and didn’t mean my original comment as a put down on it or anything Adafruit has done. (I’ve been following projects there for a long time :D ) I just had the question pop into my head when I saw the patent application links from wikipedia, and hoped to maybe get someone who is more of an expert on the subject to think about writing up a column to help us in the community in general.

          1. Anonymous says:

            @twitter-13958292:disqus this is an easy one, you asked  – “At what point should I look to see if I’m infringing on a patent?” as maker, never. this is just my opinion of course, not of MAKE or adafruit.

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