Building SpokePOV and the magic of Open Hardware

It all started about two years ago when I saw all those crazy hardware projects all over the Internet which made me became interested in hardware. Before that, I could only see hardware as ready-made equipment. Not anymore. Since my first glimpse into this universe I learned tons of things and the time has come to build something… Something very cool!

Enter the world of Adafuit Industries who I consider the leading force behind the Open Hardware revolution. Unlike most of the companies, they share everything about their projects and operations, they are extremely community friendly and not only they don’t make you sign any NDAs, they outright hate NDAs. Seeing their philosophy, their cool projects and the level of passion they put into everything they do I immediately felt that warm and fuzzy feeling.

POV projects were always incredibly interesting to me as I’m very visual (which probably shows even on the streets when I check out da ladies, but that’s another story). Maybe the fact that most people don’t have the slightest clue what these gadgets do until they start moving is the most exciting part about them. They stimulate our senses and make our mind work to figure out how it’s possible to do what these things do. I’m not quite sure what’s so magical about them, but they fascinate me every time I see them in action.

SpokePOV is one of the most interesting POV projects in my opinion. Who doesn’t want to be a badass daredevil biking in the city, showing off something that probably nobody has ever seen? Nah, don’t be shy, you can hold up your hands!

The build instructions are crystal clear and the perfect setup is given so let’s rock and roll!


Let’s zoom on a little bit.


That’s lots of LEDs, a fair amount of shift registers, resistor arrays and some other stuff.


SpokePOV is mounted into the vise, nothing can stop me!


Halfway through the work it’s time to take a little pause and drink some water before I fall off my chair.


Zooming in. The sheer beauty of the soldered shift registers gotta make your inner geek joyfully sing.


We’re almost there.


Ladies and gentlemen, after making almost 400 solder joints this baby is ready to fly… I mean spin.


I asked my buddy from the neighborhood to help me test SpokePOV on the bike in action. Reluctantly though, he said yes but we’ve had such a fun time that I hardly think he regret his decision. POVing with one SpokePOV is pretty challenging unless you’re an athlete. I guess I should have bought three of them. The desired result didn’t come easy with one piece.

Let’s see the first try.

And the second.

The third.

And lastly, but not leastly, the fourth try came with the sweet smell of success!

It’s hard to describe the feeling of building and riding SpokePOV but one thing is sure: it’s addictive. It’s a feeling that everyone should experience. As for open hardware, I’m probably addicted for life. What to do now? I’m not sure but I wanna move to soldering SMDs and I have a couple cool projects on my mind.

Open Hardware stores

I try to collect all Open Hardware stores that I know but you’re encouraged to let me know about others in the comments.

Open Hardware Revolution

I’m very passionate about open hardware. I’m into FOSS software for a long time since about 2000 when I completely switched to Linux, but I’ve only recently became conscious that it’s possible to create hardware by individuals or small groups.

Hardware is not that fascinating to me in itself. Sure, lots of big companies create well-designed and quality hardware, Apple being one of the most well known amongst them, but I’ll never buy their products because these devices are locked and not designed to be exploited to reach their full potential. Putting OpenWrt into my ASUS WL500GPV2 is the best example I can think of how one can make his/her device a thousand times more powerful and customizable by replacing the stock firmware. Unfortunately, it’s necessary to buy closed hardware in most cases because there are not many open alternatives but this situation can change in the future and whenever I can I choose open hardware.

In the Next Industrial Revolution, Atoms Are the New Bits is a fascinating read for anyone interested in the open hardware revolution. Atoms Are Not Bits; Wired Is Not A Business Magazine has lots of though provoking arguments and Are atoms the new bits? discusses the mentioned issues even further.  I don’t really think that open hardware will ever take over the world and will replace closed hardware. The big manufacturers fiercely protect their intellectual property and most consumers couldn’t care less whether they can hack a given piece of hardware because they just wanna use the damn thing (with all its shortcomings, being unaware of its full potential).

Hackers are a different breed. There are a several hundred open source projects out there, the most relevant ones being present on Harkopen, Open Innovation Projects and Open Manufacturing. Reprap is the flagship project of the revolution and rightly so because it’s very rare for the open hardware community to create something this complex and well working, even if the quality of the created models lags way behind the commercial alternatives. I think open hardware is not so widespread because 1) most of the projects are technical minded and aren’t practical for the average Joe, 2) most creators are only interested in implementing, not distributing the projects, 3) these teams don’t have any marketing / business experience and 4) the economies of scale are against us (until we conquer the world).

I definitely have to work on 3) but the Ultimate Keyboard is gonna be ready in the not too distant future. I don’t mind learning non-technical stuff to make it happen.