Bokode – the next Barcode?

There are just a few technologies for tracking object-tagged items: Barcode and RFID are at the top of the list. Each has its strengths & weaknesses but the biggest problem is that they can only be scanned at close range. (Note that some long-distance RFID solutions exist such as those used for car toll systems like EZ-Pass but these are expensive and require large, self-powered tags)

Some new work coming out of MIT’s Media Lab may change this. Called Bokode, the system uses the Bokeh optical effect which maps how rays entering an out-of-focus camera lens will converge onto the camera’s sensor.

To see the details, you’ll have to watch the attached video, but in essense the “tag” consists of an LED with an encoded optical pattern and a small cheap lens. An out-of-focus camera will see the data on the tag’s pattern, whether it is a digital code, an image, text or whatever. What’s more, the camera can also determine the angle of the object by doing some tricky optical calculations (which I don’t understand yet).

The tech is still in the development stage, but there is a development WIKI to exchange information among those interested in working more with it. Give it a read – looks like really fun stuff!

LED Dress

This is a really nice wearable LED dress designed & prototyped by Cutecircuit in the UK. Really impressive work. According to Ecouterre there are 24,000 LEDs that each measure 2×2 millimeters. Add 4 layers of silk and a few thousand Swarovski crystals and you’ve got something really gorgeous. If you want to see it in person, it is on permanant display at the Museum of Science & Industry in Chicago.

via Inhabitat

LED Necklace

A few months ago I put together a LED string for an award designed by Largent Studios. I liked the way the LEDs connected & thought they might look good just like that. This necklace is my first attempt. Neat thing is, the LEDs are powered by coin batteries that are just slipped in between the + and – LED terminals.

LED Necklace LED Necklace Detail

National Semiconductor’s Dimmable LED driver

National Semiconductor has just released a new integrated circuit, the LM3445, that will be a game changer in the world of LED Lighting. From what I’ve seen one of the tougher challenges for LED integration into standard interior lighting has been dimming. LEDs need very strict power to be maintained and are finicky on how dimming works for them. Pulse Width Modulation seems to be the best way to dim them, but how to control a PWM module from a standard wall dimmer? With only 2 wires running to the light fixture, you’d have to modulate the dimming signals into the AC (like a X10 system) and that gets complicated. National’s new IC helps solve this problem. With some additional circuitry, the voltage from a standard Triac dimmer can be used to control LED dimming without flicker. No additional power supply, only 2 wires powering everything. Only bummer is that the chip can only source for seven 1-Watt LEDs but hopefully that will get solved soon. Hope to see these on some cascadable LED light strips soon. Check out this demonstration done by Arrow Electronics.

LED Production Innovations

LEDs are great. They’re bright and last forever. But are they ready to replace light bulbs?

Last year we tried to come up with an economical way to put LED lights into fixtures for a designer but there really wasn’t much out there that fit into a good budget. There’s a ton of products out there for LED lighting but so far none have seemed to provide enough illumination at a price that can compete with incandescent or compact fluorescent. What is more, LEDs require pretty advanced circuitry to dim them and they require expensive power supplies. Though we might have missed something, LED lighting as a practical solution seemed a few years away.

This article in the Economist provides a glimpse into how LEDs work and what the future of LED lighting may be. It details some new developments in production methods of LEDs which could lead to significant cost reductions. Most significantly it tells about a new process which can replace the (expensive) sapphire substrates with (cheaper) silicon ones.