Interactive Game of Life Kits

Tileable Digital Interactive LED Soldering Kit
Not currently available

The Interactive Game of Life kits are tileable, digital interactive LED surfaces filled with ultrabright LEDs that react to human motion and evolve according to the rules of John Conway's Game of Life. They can be used for making interactive LED displays including educational exhibits, coffee tables, bar tops, and walls.

The kit is based on the Octolively hardware, with the addition of a crystal oscillator and all-new firmware. Each kit module is 4 X 8 inches (10.16 X 20.32 cm) in size, and features eight huge (10 mm) ultrabright LEDs, spaced along a two-inch grid. Each module also has eight infrared proximity sensors-- one for every LED --to detect interaction, even in total darkness.

The modules can be tiled edge-to-edge, seamlessly, in any size or shape of rectangular array. You can cover a full wall, or just make a long strip as narrow as 4 or 8 inches wide. Because Conway's Game of Life works better in larger grids, we recommend a bare minimum of 2 modules in any application, and 8 or more modules for best results.

Each Interactive Game of Life module is controlled by an on-board microcontroller and can function as a self-contained, stand-alone device. You do need to provide power (5 V DC), but no central computer nor complex communication wiring is needed. Because it's self contained, there is no trade-off between array size and performance.

The Interactive Game of Life is a fully open source hardware+software design, designed to be hackable.

Octolively PCB Building your Interactive Game of Life kits

The Interactive Game of Life modules come as easy-to-build soldering kits [?], with your choice of LED colors. Basic electronic soldering skill is required, and you provide standard soldering tools: a soldering iron + solder and small ("flush") wire clippers. No additional knowledge of electronics is presumed or required.

Interactive Game of Life kits feature easy "through-hole" construction ("No surface-mount nothin' nowhere!"), and a symmetric design that makes assembly particularly straightforward. Note that you will need internet access to view or download our clear, photo-heavy assembly guide.

Interactive Game of Life modules come pre-programmed with the necessary firmware; no programming hardware nor knowledge of programming is necessary to build and enjoy these kits.

Interactive Game of life module

LED Colors & Control Pads

Each kit module has eight ultrabright 10 mm diffused-lens LEDs, in your choice of cool white or warm white LED color. We generally recommend warm white, which is a "softer" tone that mimics the color of incandescent bulbs more closely.)

For larger arrays, you may want to designate one or two modules as "control pads" as we have done in our examples. On these modules, the 4 LEDs on one end of a module are a different color than the 4 LEDs at the other end (paired as blue/green or yellow/red, representing controls for "step," "run," "pause," and "clear").

Power consumption

An Interactive Game of Life module, at its very brightest, requires just 1 W of power (200 mA at 5 V). During periods when the LEDs are off, the power consumption is about one quarter of that, as it does take a small amount of current to operate the sensors.

Power supplies and connections

Interactive Game of Life modules require you to provide a regulated 5 V DC power supply in order to operate. The power supply should have capacity for at least 200 mA per module.

For small installations, we recommend powering Interactive Game of Life modules with our 5 V, 1 A power supply, which provides enough current for five modules-- order one power supply for every five modules. The power supply plugs into the included 2.5 x 5.5 mm barrel jack on the bottom of one of the modules, and can share power to four other modules through the board-edge connectors.

Interactive Game of life kit array

The board-edge connectors can actually pass as much as 4 A of current, so larger regulated 5 V power supplies (available elsewhere) can be used to power up to 20 modules, sharing power through their edge connectors. (When ordering a power supply elsewhere, note the connector size. For example, you may also want a 2.1 x 5.5 mm barrel jack connector.)

For large installations where multiple power supplies are less desirable, it may be advantageous to instead install a two-position 3.5 mm screw terminal (sold separately) in each panel, and run individual wires from a large, central power supply to different areas of the grid. You can also solder wires directly into the screw terminal locations instead of using screw terminals.

Surface materials

Interactive Game of Life modules function well under a wide variety of clear glass and plastic materials. While the bulk material should be clear, the surface can be frosted to obscure the circuitry below. For example, etched glass and sanded acrylic are known to work well. Tinted materials generally decrease but do not eliminate the sensitivity of the modules, and opaque materials are generally not suitable.


No programming is required to build and use the Interactive Game of Life modules-- the microcontroller comes preprogrammed and ready to use. However, if you would like to reprogram it (or potentially, install future firmware versions), you can use an AVR ISP programmer such as the USBtinyISP.

Game of Life kit documentation is available at the Evil Mad Scientist Wiki.

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