Combine a button with a pixel, and you produce a ‘Bixel.’ Combine enough of them, and you can create a large LED interactive where each pixel can be pressed to change an animation in real-, which is what the people at Maniacal Labs have successfully created.

The interactive display features individual LEDs with tactile switches sandwiched between acrylic, making them act as . (📷: Maniacal Labs)

The Bixel’s original was to use arcade buttons with built-in RGB LEDs; however, that plan was scrapped as the cheapest buttons they could find were $2 a piece, meaning a X display would cost over $500, and that’s just for the buttons. Instead, they chose to use individual RGB LEDs taken from SK9822 strips and engineered a custom setup, which worked out well.

The Bixel build process was done by soldering the individual LEDs onto a custom 500 X 500mm PCB. On the sides of each strip section are a pair of tactile switches, while above and below each is a square piece of acrylic, with a 25mm hole cut into the of each. Sandwiched between the two sheets is an acrylic button that engages the switches when pressed.

Controlling the display is done using a Raspberry Pi that passes instructions along to a Teensy, which tells the LEDs what to do. (📷: Maniacal Labs)

The hardware to control the display was done using a Raspberry Pi 3, which processes the inputs and display patterns and then passes it off to a Teensy microcontroller that tells the LEDs what to do. In all, Maniacal Labs employed 256 SK9822 RGB LEDs, 512 tactile switches, 256 1N4148 diodes, 600+ screws, stand-offs and nuts, 0.5Kg of solder, 12 hours of laser cutting and 00+ hours to design and build the Bixel. To see the complete process, head over to Maniacal Labs website found here.

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