What Features Do You Want in an LED Puck?

Underworld: Evolution features hockey-puck-sized bombs that click open, disperse visible vapor, and then blow up real good.

Why should the destructive guys have all the fun? I’m inspired to make design an LED puck, for special-purpose lighting. Power goes out and you need to enough light to shut down the UPS-protected computers? LED puck. Camping and you need to find your gear inside your tent? Puck. Kidnapped and locked inside a trunk? Puck. (Also “cocktail party,” but that’s a different movie.) It’s dark and you want to show off a cool gizmo? Puck!

My friend Joel can help me cast it in clear resin to protect the LEDs — but casting it in resin makes it harder to tweak later, so I’d like to get the feature set right on the first try.

What would make for a cool LED puck? Here’s my list.

  • Fairly even light dispersion through a hemispherical pattern. That is, it illuminates the room, not just the ceiling.
  • Enough light to read by at 5′.
  • Can use rechargeable AA or AAA cells. And/or:
  • Can use “Joule thief” technology to use all of an alkaline.
  • Hardy enough to toss around. Like the bombs.
  • Physical on/off switch.
  • Jack for (wired) remote on/off control. (Increases flexibility to use as something other than a lantern.
  • Wireless, addressible remote control. Can control multiple pucks individually. Keyfob. Choop-choop sound. Okay, forget the choop-choop.

10 Responses to “What Features Do You Want in an LED Puck?”

  1. Kevin Reid says:

    Mostly silly:

    1. Accelerometer/impact sensor, adjust for either “when thrown into the room” or “when touched” sensitivity:
    a. Turn on at first impact.
    b. Flash on each impact.
    c. Toggle on/off.

    2. Grenade/overload mode (increasing-frequency pulses, ending state to taste).

    3. Flicker (fake fire) mode.

    4. Night light mode: turns off whenever there is other light in the room.

  2. Kris Wotipka says:

    Well, you have a blank flat surface on the other side. Why not put a solar cell on the other side? I’ll have to keep an eye on this. I saw your superbright LED post. As a lighting guy, things like this always catch my attention.


  3. Keith Neufeld says:

    Kevin — I love the silly ideas. I mean, the whole concept here is for this to be ridiculously over the top, like something that Batman just whips off his belt, because he always carries exactly what’s needed for every situation.

    That said, Batman can always “prime” and use his devices quickly. He may push a couple of buttons, but he doesn’t have to consult a manual, set a rotary DIP switch or push a selector button a zillion times, etc. So all the crazy features need to be easy to access.

    I had a couple more ideas:

    • USB connection to power the puck and/or recharge the battery.
    • If it has an accelerometer and a USB connection anyway, make a POV-message-board mode. It can detect the orientation before you start to wave it to determine which sets of LEDs to use, and then write a message in the air, programmed via the USB port.

    How’s that for over-the-top?

    BTW, I really like the night-light mode. Good idea.

    Kris — The solar charger is a good idea and a very handy way to recharge the battery. But I almost wonder if it’s too practical. :-) I mean, this is a ridiculous gizmo; why put something sensible in it? :-)

    More seriously, I’m still trying to work out how to keep the bottom accessible to change batteries, but still durable enough to kick around a bit. I’m concerned about whether I could adequately protect a solar panel from damage without encasing it in resin.

    Hm, maybe this thing needs to be resin top and bottom and somehow screw apart in the center to get to the batteries?

  4. Kevin Reid says:

    Accelerometer-based control!

    1. Press single control button.
    2. Tilt puck such that the LED indicating the relevant function is lit.
    3. Release button.

    Look at Wii games for control scheme ideas?

    Re battery access, how about a custom rubber plug? I assume this isn’t totally impractical if you’re prepared to cast with resin.

    Maybe make said rubber plug also the control button?

  5. Keith Neufeld says:

    Kevin — accelerometer-based control is GENIUS. I could even silk-screen tiny labels above the LEDs for selecting a function. Oh my goodness, I wanted over-the-top, geeky cool and you just NAILED it. :-)

  6. Keith Neufeld says:

    Addition from lunch conversation today:

    • Magnetic base, to stick it to a file cabinet or car.
  7. Max says:

    Ok, this is best idea ever! I will be thinking of features to add! Perhaps a RGB LED? The accelerometer control is brilliant!

  8. Max says:

    How about using inductive charging? That would eliminate the need to have to open it up, keeping the puck uniform.

  9. Keith Neufeld says:

    Max — I don’t know enough about inductive charging to know whether I could fit it into that size space? As an alternative, consider “stacked” charging like the pager pucks at [insert favorite chain restaurant]?

    From an IM session with Kevin:

    • You can use it as a level. (How practical!)
    • Modular software so it’s easy to contribute new functions and to pick which you want active on your puck.

    From Jeremy:

    • Timer-delayed activation mode, so when Batman knows he’s going to need a distraction from the bad guys, he can plan it in advance.

    From my own brain:

    • Mechanical (aka analog) clock mode, where the LEDs around the edge indicate the time. Can use accelerometer to determine which orientation it’s in (e.g. while stuck to the side of a file cabinet) hence which LED to use as 12:00 (up).
  10. Brandon says:

    I’m actually in the market for something VERY similar to this. What I’m looking for is a puck shaped device that has a 3-5 second timer (push a button) and slide it into a room to emit a photo strobe intense flash…just once.

    It should be re-usable and I’m pretty sure I can make it, the Strobe boards are easy to come by its the timer I’m having a little trouble with.

    AA or AAA will be more then enough juice…and lets get crazy…have some glide wheels on the bottom so I can open a door, roll it into the center of the room and poof! Blind bad guys. :)

    I have an application in mind. :)

    What do you think? If you want to discuss it off line like me know I’m on AIM at tilanthis.

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