There is very little that makes me happier than seeing folks buy toys and abuse them to take advantage of the cheap technology located therein. In this case, That Dragon Guy ( Phillip Burgess who you might know from Adafruit) on twitter is showing how he bought a cheap plastic animated Jack-o-lantern and ripped it open to find a cheap short-throw projector that was ripe for modification.
This whole thread takes place on twitter (now X I guess?) and therefore the thread may render a bit funky in this blog post, so I’ll try to break things down for you as much as I can.
We start with the raw materials: a $45 animated jack-o-lantern. On it’s own it’s a pretty cute little decoration. However, the cultured among us look at this and see at a minimum a projector that is worth much more than that.
Upon cracking it open, we see the basic projector.
Inspecting the projector tells us some pretty important stuff. Sadly, there’s no removable storage like a microSD card. That would have been delightful. However, this won’t stop Burgess.
After connecting directly to the flash, Burgess dumps a copy of the storage just in case he totally botches this. Dumping the storage also gives us a chance to sift through the detritus and find useful things, such as the video files themselves.
.AMV is a weird format used by cheap media players. Max res is 208×176 @ up to 16 FPS. Fortunately ffmpeg can make sense of it and convert to MP4 or most anything… pic.twitter.com/JpM8p6Q0OD— That Dragon Guy (@PaintYourDragon) October 1, 2023
Once you have the video file, and a passing knowledge of FFMpeg, you can play it
The next step in testing is simply to replace the existing file on the internal storage with a new one. Burgess makes sure the new video has the exact same settings as the original and dumps it to flash. Success!
You could really be pretty much done at this point. it’s a cheap, super short throw projector that you could embed in costumes doing whatever you want. That’s awesome. However, if you know Burgess, you might already know where this is headed. He’s got a history with making really cool eyeballs out of some cool tech, but the systems were always a tiny bit pricey. This new system offers a nice cheaper version. Burgess shows the old version, and dives a bit into what he’s about to try here.
Ultimately, what he’s shown here is that you can pull off this really cool eyeball for maybe $55. That’s pretty awesome. Burgess doesn’t stop there. He decides to rip the projector itself open to see what is hackable there.
I love seeing this. I’ve personally built projectors before and I recognize exactly what each piece does here. I’m happy to tell you, you can somewhat easily replace the display with a higher resolution version if you really want to improve your image quality. The hardest part would be dissecting a new display to remove the back lighting panel!