Heartwarming is central to the season. I made a surprise message receiving system that will definitely bring a smile to your face.
I’ve been thinking about this idea for years and years. I never got around to it. But this year, the spirit was in the air… I absolutely had to make it real.
I like the idea of sending a message to a friend/loved one’s “holiday tree.” I have noticed that almost every holiday comes will a barrage of texts to my phone. Happy this, merry that, so old-school. Send a text to a tree… now you got something.
The concept is simple. You setup your Raspberry Pi somewhere special to you. I put it by a little Xmas tree in my example. The Pi checks for messages every so often. When a new on comes in, it displays it on the screen and starts “twinkling” LED lights you place around it. The lights are to let you know a new message has come in. Read it, and press a button to clear the screen. The LEDs turn off… and it waits for the next message.
The project by sections:
The hardest part is if you plan to make a harness out of the LED grid like I did. It’s more tedious than anything. A perfect activity to do while watching holiday movies. My system only has 16 LEDs, so consider that while making the harness. How far apart do you want them?
– Test that harness, if you build one. I made the mistake of wrapping it on the tree before testing. I built this all on a breadboard first, and that one had an issue. I assumed my harness would also have issues. But… I didn’t have any errors, luckily.
Every SMALL Raspberry Pi screen really limits the ability to use the Pi. So, you might want to do all the Raspberry Pi’s setup using a standard screen and switch to the mini-screen at the end. There are a few command-lines you have to do first.
– Test the system on the regular screen first too. It will still work properly. You may even prefer the look, depending on how you want to set up the holiday messenger. If it works without issue, then setup the mini-screen. Then test again!
When you do wrap a tree or setup the LEDs however, consider this: most LEDs have a narrow beam angle. You may want to point the LEDs’ beams toward where an observer may be. Alternatively, find some LEDs with wide-angle. Search for “wide angle polka dot LEDs,” those would be great.
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