LED Matrix Shadow Box Brings Retro Arcade Sprites to Your Desktop

Josh Gerdes' Arduino Nano-powered display uses the FastLED library to drive a WS2812B array.

Jeremy S. Cook
a month agoDisplays

Like many of us, Josh Gerdes had a project “siting half complete on [his] desk for quite a few months.” With the current COVID-19 sheltering, he finally found time to complete the build: a 16x16 Arduino-powered LED matrix.

The panel uses an Arduino Nano with the FastLED library to drive an array of WS2812Bs, laid out side by side to form a 2D display. Wiring is quite simple, with the Arduino hooked up to two buttons and the LED strips linked together in an alternating pattern for control. The pixels are separated from each other via a 3D-printed baffle arrangement, while the Arduino has its own printed holder on the back.

Files for the project can be found on GitHub, including code and 3D-printed parts. Gerdes also lists software used — this sprite repository and LCD image converter — which could be useful to duplicate the project and a wide variety of other builds.

Although this certainly isn’t the first Arduino-powered LED matrix we’ve seen here, the display has a certain elegance, situated in a purchased 12x12 black wooden shadow box. The lights are diffused in such a way that it’s difficult to see that anything is going on when off, and it looks great showing classic video game sprites from the likes of Galaga and Pac-Man. It would be possible to use this for anything else requiring a matrix output, perhaps even as a part of an interactive game setup.

Jeremy S. Cook
Engineer, maker of random contraptions, love learning about tech. Write for various publications, including Hackster!
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