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We love these two tiny LED display kits from Wayne & Layne LLC, also known as Adam Wolf and Matthew Beckler. But it’s driving us crazy that the brilliant hack they came up with for reprogramming the displays doesn’t have a snappy name yet. Please, tell us, what should we call it?

Here’s the technology: The Blinky Grid is a programmable LED matrix, 7×8, that displays any message or pixel art, and the Blinky POV is a tiny programmable persistence-of-vision LED display that you wave with your hand, creating the illusion of letters floating in air. So far, pretty normal. But when you want to reprogram the message, you don’t have to plug the Blinky into a computer — you just hold it up to your monitor or smartphone. Navigate your web browser to the Blinky Programmer website and type in your new message. The screen flashes the new message in binary and the Blinky’s onboard photosensors read the flashes — boom, you’re reprogrammed. Read more about it here.

MAKE Executive Editor Paul Spinrad and I were talking about how novel and smart (and fun) this hack is, and we think makers will love using it to program small devices. It’s open source, so anyone can build their own version. “If Adam and Matt had developed this at a big company,” Paul says, “it would probably be protected by a dozen patents.” We sell both kits in the Maker Shed, and we featured them in our MAKE Ultimate Kit Guide and our Make: Kit Reviews website. We want to keep spreading the word about this cool trick, but it needs a name. Smart Eye? Screenwashing? BlinkyVision? (Hey, that’s not so bad.)

Tell us what you think in the comments below, to be entered in a random drawing for a year’s subscription to MAKE and a brand-new MAKE T-shirt.

Keith Hammond

I’m projects editor of MAKE magazine.


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Comments

  1. Fred says:

    This idea has been around since 94 in the form of the http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Timex_Datalink

  2. Chris Cook says:

    Very cool, but not really new.
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Timex_Datalink

  3. Dschinghis says:

    LightWrite

  4. Andrew Fineman says:

    I think the program should be called,

    “Re-blinked”

  5. Tim Harris says:

    Yeah, cool but not new. If it used this: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Van_Eck_phreaking then we would be thinking with portals.

  6. Adam Wolf says:

    It’s actually older than Timex Datalink–the BBC Micro could pick up programs from a blinking square in the corner of some broadcasts in the 80s. We thought it was a pretty good way to get a small amount of data into the kit without cables or installing software–but MAKE is right–it still doesn’t have a snappy name.

  7. JimS says:

    Wired communication without wires is Wireless.
    Fiberoptic communication without fibers is Fiberless.

  8. RussellStark says:

    I want one

  9. kuro says:

    Flashflash?

  10. Short, simple, yet 80′s tacky: BlinkLink

  11. Goes back at least to the 70′s – even had a hack that used a VT-100 to “blink”. I’ve used the concept in a few toy developments – even for a couple toy/web integrations. For unrelated reasons, they didn’t actually see the store shelves…

  12. Andrew says:

    The software is a BlinkyGraph, and the message itself is a BlinkyGram, of course!

  13. Veloboy says:

    ScottyPOV (as in “beam me up”). Too Trekkie? Sounds cute tho and could have a funnny little logo to match.

  14. rachel says:

    blinky program

  15. Paul Warren says:

    I reckon: AirFlash.

  16. Jordan Engler says:

    Flash Pass

  17. AngryK9 says:

    Call it “Flashback”

    1. AngryK9 says:

      “The BlinkyPOV is programmed by a method called FlashBack” sounds good to me :p

  18. James Kasper says:

    Optication, Opticator, Opticating etc depending on the usage of the technology, the name for the technology etc.
    Based on Optical + Communication of course.
    and for symbolism if you are referring to it with the original equipment (its OEM name…)
    BlinkyOptication…

  19. Kevin L says:

    P.H.O.T.O.N.

    Programming
    Hacks
    Over
    Transfered
    Optical
    Notation

    1. naikrovek says:

      Hacks -> Happens, and I think it’s brilliant.

  20. Charles Haase says:

    How about “Blinky Mnemonic”? Paying tribute to the best part of a not-very-great movie in which the human brain is used as storage space for bits, and the password consists of 3 random images flashed on a TV screen. Just as the password is encoded in the carrier’s brain from his eyes, the program here is encoded in memory from the photo sensors!

  21. Kent Durvin says:

    Blinkloading. It just sounds right.

    1. +1

      The website is the BlinkLoader.

  22. engineerzero says:

    Hmm, I’m working on this right now for my robot. However, I’m only using a single phototransistor with no gray scale, so that the transmission rate is only 20 Hz with my ancient Vista-loaded laptop. I was thinking of using ‘light-’ or ‘flash-’ but ‘blinky-’ is an idea too.

  23. brandsRus says:

    “Wink & Link” by “Wayne & Layne LLC”

  24. naikrovek says:

    This is like a one-dimensional barcode.

  25. GCF says:

    Punny:
    Blinky see, Blinky do.
    Phogramming.
    Flashwrite

    Historic:
    Free-space optical programming (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Free-space_optical_communication)
    Aldis LED (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Aldis_lamp)

  26. rocketguy1701 says:

    Well, there’s always “screendump”, but I’m not sure that’s what we’re looking for.

    OptiPulse

    Screenflash

    Squarebeam (assuming the flashing area is square).

    Screenbang (i.e. bitbanging with a screen)
    Squarebang
    Optibang? Hmm… might be misinterpreted. Moving on.

    Flashbang! (now if we can prevent confusion with riot control ordinance, we’re good to go!)

  27. Steve Langstaff says:

    oLink

  28. Joshua says:

    This method of programing reminds me of the blipverts from the show max headroom. So… Blip coding?

  29. tv amr says:

    I definitely knew about almost all of this, but with that said, I still found it helpful. Nice work!

  30. Thatcher says:

    FlashLight! Because you’re writing the program into the flash memory, with light.

  31. Sean says:

    Link & Blink
    Glowcasting
    Screen-Streaming
    Dis-Play

  32. lee.w.smith66@gmail.com says:

    Blink-o-gram

  33. Mike says:

    How about simply The POD (Programmable Optical Device)?

  34. anclotebrewing says:

    HYPNOTOAD

  35. Bob Marney says:

    Upblink!

  36. mauiac says:

    As a hommage to the Timex Datalink watches I think the procedure should be called LTL (ListenToLight)

  37. Alan Dove says:

    How about FlashUp? BlinkSync?

  38. I’ve been working on a similar system for a watch on and off since september. Really nice technology, fairly simple to put in place. If I had my say in it, I’d call it BlinkyLink.

    For those interested, here are a couple of links I found useful for my own setup:

    This is a guy who essentially made it happen from scratch. With some help to make a website from some people in the HackADay community.
    http://www.swharden.com/blog/2011-07-26-pcmicrocontroller-wireless-data-transfer/
    Have a look at page two, he’s sharing all the code (both for a PIC and for the website).

    This is a closed sourced microcontroller for wearable applications. It’s kind of cool but seems to be very limited.
    http://blog.makezine.com/2010/11/03/schemer-microcontroller-is-programm/

  39. doctorclark says:

    Li-Fi !

    High fidelity for sound: Hi-Fi
    Wireless fidelity for radio. Wi-Fi ( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wi-Fi#The_name_Wi-Fi )
    Visible light communication: Li-Fi

    (Thought I coined it…then I googled it: https://www.google.com/search?q=li-fi and http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Visible_light_communication)

  40. Loth says:

    why not hypnoblink or blink hypnosis?

    1. Loth says:

      or blinknosis?

  41. pjrebordao@gmail.com says:

    Here a few…
    Retinex, Retinator, Retflash (er), Brainflash, Flash-o-matic, Blink-o-mat,
    Retiflash TM, Ret-o-mat, Retinotronic …

    Phew!

  42. roliop says:

    BitBlitz
    PixelBlitz

    ByteBeam
    HexBeam
    HexBload
    Hexfer

    LightLink
    SyncLink
    SourceLink

    LightRider
    The Terminalator

    SlickScreen

    EyeSerial
    RS-2-3-Char-char char
    :-)
    roliop

  43. Anonymous says:

    I say call it sparkler vision since thats where most kids learn about this phenomenon :)

  44. Bryan says:

    Aniomagic wearable led system use a webpage strobe programming also.

    Link to the programmer http://www.aniomagic.com/program/?hl=en

    Idea, you could use manchester encoding to make it work without a dedicated clock line(though software would have to decode the manchester encoding).

  45. Bob Marney says:

    Well? Any final result?

  46. [...] Challenge: Name This Hack from Wayne and Layne Manga Helps You Learn Surface-Mount Soldering Share this: Pin ItLike this:LikeBe the first to like [...]

  47. Ron Woodward says:

    The flashing screen reminds me of a strobe light.
    So strobe programming or Strobe-graming.
    The blinky writes (gram from the latin graphein “to write” )
    And it blinks as a flashing strobe but as it blinks it writes
    so it Strobe grams. The message it writes out is a Strobegram