YouTuber and maker BitLuni has teamed up with Electromaker to build a persistence of vision lightsaber, which combines images and sound to create a stunning Star Wars atmosphere! If you’ve seen the new Solo: A Star Wars Story movie, you might have come away thinking it could do with a few more lightsabers. Well, here’s your chance to bring balance to the Force...
Persistence of vision (POV) is an optical phenomenon that tricks the brain into ‘seeing’ something that is no longer visible. Once thought to be the explanation for how we see motion in animation and cinematography (scientists now have other theories), it can nevertheless be used to create striking visuals.
This lightsaber project wouldn’t be possible without the ESP32 microcontroller, to which everything else is connected. A gyroscope is used to determine the angle of the LEDs, and display the correct portion of the image as the lightsaber swings. As the lightsaber is cast in a wider arc, it displays the image. It works better in dim light, however, where the bright LEDs trick the eye into seeing a clearer image. Images are stored on the ESP32, as are the lightsaber sound files, creating the illusion of a real-life lightsaber, with sound and motion.
Other components in the project include a gyroscopic module, 2m of Neopixels (densely populated WS2812b LEDs), an audio amplifier and speaker, and a LiPo battery pack. There’s also a DC-DC converter, a push button, and a rocker switch, along with the obligatory wires and connectors. The body of the lightsaber is an aluminium tube with 3D printed handle components, while the Neopixels are mounted on an aluminium rod. Luni has employed liberal use of heat shrink tubing to avoid shorts with the metal tube; there’s a fair bit of soldering involved here, too.