The World Map

Akshay Baweja
Dec 18, 2018 · 4 min read

The world map is a 2 ft. X 3 ft. art installation where the land in world map is depicted purely by 629 RGB LEDs in total. Took about a month to build from concept to this shining piece of art.

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World map is powered by an ESP32 and requires about 100W of power at full brightness and all LEDs lit as white colour. It is conceptualised with an idea to display any and every kind of animation and manipulate data all around the world. Some data manipulations could be as follows-

  • Displaying world weather data relayed from weather stations all around the world.
  • Showing up current location of International Space Station
  • When someone tweets you from anywhere around the world that tweet location web will be displayed
  • Your google location timeline could also be pin pointed taking your google account to get your location history.
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World Map — Front
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World Map — Back

Besides these use cases, one use case I considered to be very useful is to relay a company’s website traffic location on the world map. Suppose a web based company such as Amazon or Google or Uber, The World Map is capable to displaying the usage heat-maps of their usage all around the world. Since it contains RGB LEDs it can show dynamic and colour-coded heat-maps based on realtime usage data. Maybe UBER can show data-points showing number of cabs booked in an area or drop-off points which is a cool way of showing off your growth or sales as a company.

Each of the 629 LEDs in the World Map is mapped to a GPS coordinate so it is easy to pop up any location into it and hence making its firmware developer friendly.

How I built it?

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2x3 ft sheet of 5mm plywood

World Map is built with basic tools and a Laser Cutter that is capable of cutting wood. Starting from a raw plywood being laser cut with world map design having 629 holes shaped in form of the world map. Following this a good sanding is done to the world map to give it a smooth finish.

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LaserCut Plywood Sheet

Afterwards, a coat of walnut stain and a final finish coat of wood wax was applied to give it a smooth and matt finish. This gave map its current look and feel.

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Finished Walnut Stain with Matt Finish Coating

Now starts the most tiring part which also needs a lot of patience — putting in Six Hundred and Twenty Nine LEDs in each of the laser cut holes.

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Later on, the 629 LEDs were wired in a snake pattern and a custom controller was built around Arduino and ESP32. The firmware for the world map is designed using C++ and FastLED library for control of WS2812 LEDs by fastled.io.

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Coming onto the LED type used in the world map is WS2812 LED which are also known as Pixel LED or addressable LEDs. These LEDs are of special interest, each led is individually controllable and are wired up in a serial fashion. These large number of LEDs can be controlled by only 1-wire interface where an array of length 629 each element of array carrying 3 bytes of data is sent out to notify LEDs onto which colour to light.

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Base for mounting World Map
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World Map mounted onto wall

Hallelujah! 😍

What’s Next?

I have plans to add on some new features to this world map. This world map is on display at Maker’s Asylum, Delhi. Members from the maker’s community have also developed more animations for the map and keep on contributing to the project. It’s always fun to interact with it.

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