When it comes to building interactive props, you have always had two main areas where there is going to be tons of work and problem solving. There’s the physical structure and look, then there’s the interactive electronics. For many, learning the techniques for shaping foam or 3d printing came naturally, but the electronics were still a hurdle. There’s a lot to learn!
Adafruit has been listening and has just released the Prop-Maker FeatherWing. This is an add-on board to their feather microcontrollers that has some easy to use features specifically for adding lights and sound to your prop. Check out this quick video of a light saber built using the system.
As I’ve mentioned each time I talk about the feather ecosystem, I love that this uses Circuit Python, which means you don’t need a compiler installed. You just plug this into any computer (or phone!) and open it like a storage device, then edit the text file that is there. That’s all. As for sound, you just drop .wav files onto it.
from the product description:
We looked at hundreds of prop builds, and thought about what would make for a great low-cost (but well-designed) add-on for our Feather boards. Here’s what we came up with:
- Snap-in NeoPixel port – With a 3-pin JST connector, you can plug in one of our JST-wired NeoPixel strips directly, or use a 3-pin JST connector to wire up your favorite shape of addressable NeoPixel LEDs. This port provides high current drive from either the Feather Lipoly or USB port, whichever is higher. A level shifter gives you a clean voltage signal to reduce glitchiness no matter what chip you’re using
- 3W RGB LED drivers – 3 high current MOSFETs will let you connect a 3W RGB LED for powerful eye-blasting glory. For most Feathers, the 3 pins are PWM capable so you can generate any color you like. Available as pin breakouts plus strain-relief holes
- Triple-Axis Accelerometer with Tap Detection – The LIS3DH is our favorite accelerometer, you can use this for detection motion, tilt or taps. Here’s an example of a light saber that makes sounds when swung or hit. We have code for this chip in both Arduino and CircuitPython.
- Class D Audio Amplifier – Drive a 8Ω 1Watt speaker or 4Ω 3W speaker for sound effects. Plug and play with our cute and slim oval speaker, or connect a picoblade cable for your favorite speaker. For use only with Feathers that have analog audio out such as the Feather M0 Express and M4 series.
- Low power mode! The power system for the RGB LED, NeoPixels and speaker amplifier can be controlled by a pin to cut power to them, so you have lower power usage when the prop is in sleep or off mode (but can wake up fast by listening to the button press or accelerometer data). When the power pin is set low, the current draw for just the wing is under 1mA and no there’s current draw from any attached NeoPixels – normally they’re about 1mA even when not lit.
- Breakouts plus strain-relief hole for the enable pin and ground (for a mechanical switch that will power down the whole board)
- Breakouts plus strain-relief holes for an external switch pin and ground (for a mechanical mode button)