From the jumbotron over the ice arena to the ever-changing electronic signs littering the streets of New York City, unconventional displays can be found just about anywhere. Normally, making them involves some serious coding, hardware engineering or deep, sometimes dangerous tweaking of system and driver files. This process can sometimes involve custom hardware, as seen in the signs often used to mark road work. Using off-the-shelf hardware would be more cost-effective and allow for much more creativity, but is, for the most part, extremely difficult. On top of all that, adding in interactivity features can prove extremely difficult if not outright impossible, depending on the hardware used and how the display is set up. That's where Google's new open-source AnyPixel.js tool comes in.
Using the open-source, web-based tool, anybody can piece together a display from just about anything they can wire up and put lights in, and program that display to do whatever they please. Mounting up hundreds of arcade buttons on a wall and having them make incredible moving art, as seen above, is only half the fun of AnyPixel.js. The tool allows you to add in deep interactivity, making every single pixel on the surface into a point of interactivity in some way. While the uses seen in the video may be the most straightforward examples that come immediately to mind, the potential use cases for the technology are practically limitless.
In order to get started, you'll need a printed circuit board that's up to par, the parts you intend to use as lights, and, of course, the software itself. The software stack consists of a simple web app layer, used to control the final product, along with core firmware code and code for frontend that makes using the source code a bit easier. All of this code, along with specifications and the raw source, are available on GitHub, where it can be commented on and branched from, but does not seem to be open for public contribution at this time. The open-source tool runs on a simple web interface, making it theoretically usable on even the most humble of hardware, so long as no incompatible protocols are implemented by the user, meaning an older Android or a low-powered Chromebook could serve as a hub for a creation stemming from this tool.