Lixie Labs' Emotiscope Is a "Powerful Bridge Between Sight and Sound"

Powered by an Espressif ESP32-S3, this follow-up to the Sensory Bridge offers high-resolution, high-framerate RGB LED visualization.

Gareth Halfacree
2 months agoDisplays / Sensors / Music / Art

Lixie Labs has designed an audio visualizer with a difference, boasting a "magic diffuser" over 128 addressable LEDs running at up to 450 frames per second — and capable of visualizing a range of musical features, not just volume: the Emotiscope, a follow-up to the earlier Sensory Bridge.

"This isn’t the usual 'sound-reactive LEDs' you’ve seen for years," the company writes of its creation. "Emotiscope was built by Lixie Labs from the ground up as an open, powerful bridge between sight and sound. With a show that's reactive to notation, vibrato, tempo, and more, it produces very unique and pleasant-to-look-at light shows which synchronize to your music without any visible latency whatsoever."

Designed as a follow-up to the Sensory Bridge, the Emotiscope is a major upgrade on standard VU meter projects. (📹: Lixie Labs)

While the Emotiscope is built around an LED matrix, it goes beyond the majority of its rivals by using 128 of what the company describes as "the world's smallest addressable LEDs" behind a "magic diffuser" in order to mimic neon gas plasma displays of the past. As you'd expect, there's a microphone that picks up ambient audio for visualization — and a three-point touch control system to the top, for switching between pre-programmed visualization modes and to put the device to sleep, all wired into an Espressif ESP32-S3 microcontroller.

"For more flexible control," the company notes, "there's the Emotiscope app. No downloads, no install, no account, no subscription, simply visit app.emotiscope.rocks from any phone on the same Wi-Fi network as Emotiscope to be automatically connected in seconds. Once there, you’re greeted with a very simple interface with only one concept to learn: sliders. Sliders work like knobs to control things like brightness, color, reaction speed, and more. Just drag your thumb up and down anywhere on the slider to alter it, and your changes are automatically saved to Emotiscope."

The visualizer includes a traditional analog visualization mode, a spectrum analyzer mode that works between 110Hz and 4,186Hz, an "octave" mode that wraps the 64 notes between those frequencies into a single octave, a metronome mode that can track multiple beats for different instruments, a "spectronome" hybrid spectrum-metronome mode, a "hype" mode for parties, an adjustable "bloom" mode, and a neutral mode that, the company explains, "does nothing, but it does nothing really well" — disabling the microphone while keeping the animations going.

In addition to preprogrammed visualizations, the Emotiscope is app-controllable — and the firmware is open source. (📹: Lixie Labs)

"For geeks interested in how it works," the company adds, "Emotiscope is using a dual-core ESP32-S3 to drive 128 addressable LEDs at 200-400 FPS depending on the mode. It uses 128 instances of the Goertzel algorithm running in parallel to decipher the strength of 64 musical notes, logs the spectral flux over time, and then derives the strength of 64 tempi from those as well.

The wood-encased Emotiscope is available to buy from the Lixie Labs Tindie store at $120 fully-assembled; more information is available on the project website, while source code is available on GitHub under the GNU General Public License 3.

Gareth Halfacree
Freelance journalist, technical author, hacker, tinkerer, erstwhile sysadmin. For hire: freelance@halfacree.co.uk.
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