Octolively Kit

Tileable Digital Interactive LED Soldering Kit
Not currently available

Octolively modules are tileable, digital interactive LED surfaces filled with ultrabright LEDs that respond in complex and gentle ways to stimulus provided by human interaction.

Each Octolively module is 4 × 8 inches (10.16 × 20.32 cm) in size, and features eight huge (10 mm) ultrabright LEDs, spaced along a two-inch grid. Each Octolively module also has eight infrared proximity sensors— one for every LED —to detect nearby motion, 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.

Octolively modules come pre-programmed with eight different effects that respond to motion and gradually fade back to idle when there is no motion— ideal for making interactive LED walls, bar tops, and coffee tables. You can switch between the different effects with a button press: Gently fading trails after your motion, a "heat" mode that gets brighter as it detects more motion, simple positive and negative "shadow" effects that light the LEDs— or darken them —wherever you touch, ripple, sparkle, and a "melting" mode where activated pixels fade only very slowly.

(Octolively video. Alternate YouTube link here.)

Each Octolively module is controlled by an on-board microcontroller and functions 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.

Octolively is a fully open source hardware+software design, designed to be hackable.

Octolively PCB Building Octolively

Octolively 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.

Octolively features 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.

Power consumption

An Octolively module, at its very brightest, requires just 1 W of power (200 mA at 5 V). When no motion is detected and 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

Octolively 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 of up to 5 modules, we recommend powering Octolively modules with our 5 V, 1 A power supply; order one power supply for every five modules. For up to 15 modules (or larger arrays powered in groups of 15), you can use our 5 V, 3 A power supply. These types of power supplies plug 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 Octolively's board-edge connectors.

Octolively array The power jack and board-edge connectors can pass up 4 A of current, so larger regulated 5 V power supplies (available elsewhere) can be used to power groups of up to 20 modules, sharing power through their edge connectors.

For large installations where small 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.

Octolively in the dark (warm white/cool white) Sensor range

Octolively modules use a combination of active and passive near-infrared sensing to detect motion. A sensing range of 10-15 cm is typical in a completely dark room, or in a room lit by fluorescent lighting, where the only infrared sources are the ones built into the modules. However, in the presence of infrared light sources such as IR LEDs, incandescent lamps, or sunlight, Octolively modules can respond to changes in light and shadow with essentially unlimited range.

Octolively under frosted acrylic Surface materials

Octolively 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 Octolively modules— the microcontroller comes preprogrammed and ready to use. However, if you would like to reprogram it (or potentially, install future firmware versions), we recommend the use of AVR ISP programmer such as the USBtinyISP.

Download Octolively Datasheet (700 kB PDF file).

Octolively documentation is hosted at the Evil Mad Scientist Wiki.

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