What is SmartMatrix?
SmartMatrix is a beautiful music visualizer, dynamic art display, video game art display, and more. It’s controllable, customizable, and extendable, allowing you to display your own animations and messages.
Customize what’s on the screen with the included remote control: choose what’s playing, show a clock or message on top, and change settings, all from the remote. You don’t need a computer or phone to control what’s on the screen.
Patterns are generated on the fly by SmartMatrix and can be customized by selecting a color palette to match your decor or mood. Over 32 patterns are built into SmartMatrix.
Audio patterns react to music connected via a headphone-style cable. Cycle through the included patterns along with your favorite color palette. Connect SmartMatrix to the line-out port of your stereo or sound card, or use the included Y-adapter to tap into the signal between your audio source and speakers.
Play 32×32 pixel GIF Animations on SmartMatrix. Find, convert or create your own 32×32 pixel GIF with any software that outputs GIF files and drag it to the SmartMatrix USB drive to add new animations. It’s quite easy to use free online tools to convert large videos and GIFs into 32×32 pixel size, and we’re sharing a growing collection on our website.
On top of any content (Patterns, Audio Patterns, Animations), you can display a clock or scrolling message. A built in Real Time Clock module keeps track of the time, with battery backup to keep time even when unplugged.
The LED matrix gives a unique look that can’t be reproduced by a computer monitor or TV. The individual LEDs are bright enough to be seen across a room in daylight but can also be dimmed to not be distracting at night. SmartMatrix uses unique technology to show excellent color contrast and depth and a fast refresh rate to get rid of distracting flicker.
What do we get?
We’re packaging SmartMatrix as an easy to assemble kit, requiring just a screwdriver and a few minutes to put together. If you don’t want to assemble the kit yourself, we have an assembled version that is ready to go out of the box.
The kit comes with everything needed for SmartMatrix to run on its own. You only need to connect to a computer to load new GIFs or messages, and you can connect the included audio cables to your audio source for music visualization.
- 32×32 pixel RGB LED matrix panel
- SmartMatrix circuit board with clock battery backup and 4GB microSD Card
- Power adapter, USB cable, headphone-size (1/8″) audio cable with Y-adapter
- 9″x9″ shadowbox picture frame customized with laser cut panel in the back, and specialty lighting acrylic in the front
- Remote control, receiver, and cable
- Miscellaneous small parts for assembly
By backing at the beta level you will receive a SmartMatrix Kit well before the main rewards ship, but before all the instructions and tutorials are written. The hardware for the main rewards and beta rewards should be the same, with minor cosmetic differences. We’re going to continue improving the software after beta units ship, and upgrading is easy as copying a file to the USB drive.
SmartMatrix started as a DIY kit for electronics enthusiasts to connect an Arduino-like Development Board to LED panels. We released the kit and code to drive the display as open source at Maker Faire in May 2014 and got a lot of interest from people that wanted to build their own products with an LED display. Adafruit Industries carries our kit and has sold over 500 in the last year.
At Maker Faire we met a lot of people that were interested in the display but had never soldered or didn’t have the time or skills to program an application for SmartMatrix. Four months later at World Maker Faire in New York City we released the SmartMatrix Bundle – the precursor to SmartMatrix – that included pre-made software for playing patterns and animations with a remote control interface. The bundle was popular but many interested visitors to our booth were disappointed to find it required about 30 minutes of soldering to assemble.
SmartMatrix is a continuation of the project – making it accessible to more people by manufacturing a custom board with all the parts soldered. Now assembling the kit only takes a few minutes without any special skills or tools. We added a few new features including music visualization, the Real Time Clock module, and a custom remote.
SmartMatrix and Open Source
SmartMatrix started as an Open Source project and continues to be. You can find hardware and software details in our GitHub repo, and a tutorial on how to put together a SmartMatrix display using development boards and a bit of through-hole soldering on Instructables.
The main software on SmartMatrix is an open source Arduino sketch called Aurora that can run on a Teensy 3.1 as well as the custom SmartMatrix board. We include instructions on how to compile all of the software yourself using free tools. We brought power, programming, serial, and I2C signals out to pads on the board if you want to extend the functionality of your SmartMatrix.
Why back us?
This is a chance to get SmartMatrix before anyone else, and at a significant discount off our retail price.
We spent a lot of time before this campaign making the software and hardware in SmartMatrix robust and easy to use. While we had a prototype suitable for a Kickstarter video shoot ready in January, we waited to launch until after we had finalized the design, qualified all suppliers, and completed a 100-unit pilot manufacturing run so our backers would have a better experience.
We expect to be able to deliver rewards on time, without the schedule slip we’ve seen with so many other Kickstarter hardware projects that are still working on design after the campaign, or underestimate the time it takes to qualify manufacturers and source hardware.
Why did we come to Kickstarter?
It’s expensive to build a single circuit board for a product, but by bulk ordering parts we can bring the costs down to make SmartMatrix more affordable.
By pledging for the Kickstarter, you’re enabling us to order a large batch of parts and in turn we’re rewarding you with the product at a discounted price with free shipping. After we ship to our Kickstarter bakers, we’re planning to sell SmartMatrix through distributors at a higher retail price.
For the next batch of backers, the parts must be ordered after Kickstarter funds arrive. The delivery date is based on our projected worst case delay in sourcing parts, plus time to assemble and ship all the rewards.
- December 2014 – Early prototype complete
- March 2015 – Design complete, beta parts ordered
- April 2015 – Beta parts received and tested
- May – Kickstarter campaign
- June – Campaign conclusion and funds arrive
- July – Ship beta rewards, order parts for main rewards
- August – Main reward parts start to arrive
- September – Assemble and ship rewards
SmartMatrix wouldn’t be possible without a lot of open source code, tools, and information shared by others.
- Paul Stoffregen (PJRC) – The Teensy 3.1 and Teensyduino Arduino add-on made an excellent development platform for building SmartMatrix, and the idea for the SmartMatrix Library was conceived while reading an article about Paul’s OctoWS2811 Library
- Micah Elizabeth Scott – Fadecandy was another source for inspiration while building SmartMatrix. The SmartMatrix board borrows a few ideas from Fadecandy like the Hacker Port for programming, and the SmartMatrix Library has a few snippets of Fadecandy code
- Craig Lindley – Playing GIFs natively on SmartMatrix is made possible by Craig’s open source GIF decoder, and Craig’s Light Appliance project was the idea for turning SmartMatrix into an untethered product with a remote control
- Daniel Garcia and Mark Kriegsman (FastLED) – Nearly all the patterns in SmartMatrix depend on the FastLED library, and many of the patterns are made with open source code from the FastLED community
- Stefan Petrick – Some of the best looking patterns on SmartMatrix are contributed by Stefan, and his Funky Clouds project inspired the Audio Patterns in SmartMatrix
- Al Linke’s Pixel and Jeremy Williams’ Game Frame – These previous Kickstarter successes were inspirations for SmartMatrix and the creators were open with sharing their Kickstarter stories to help others
- Chasm Animated GIFs are used with permission from Discord Games, Inc., makers of Chasm
We’ve done our best to minimize risks and surprises that can lead to delays by doing a 100-unit pilot run before the campaign started. Because the hardware design is complete, we have qualified suppliers, and have beta testers already using the product, fulfilling the rewards should be straightforward.
The main risk of a delay is a parts shortage. To minimize this we will place orders for key components as soon as the Kickstarter funds arrive.