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Introduction to Komby

The Komby environment leverages the ubiquity of the Arduino — a microprocessor married to an easy-to-use integrated development environment — with the low cost of Nordic Semiconductor's 2.4GHz digital radios, allowing holiday lighting sequences to be developed on a variety of music-illumination applications, such as Vixen 2.x, Vixen3, Vixen+, Nutcracker/xLights, Light-o-Rama or Hinckle's Light Sequencer, and then transmitted wirelessly to lighting props that can accept Renard or DMX input or protocol for a variety of popular pixels that run at 12 or five volts, such as LPD8806, SM16716, TM1804, TM1809, UCS1903, WS2801 or WS2811 (WS2812, etc.).

Komby hardware designs, while copyrighted, are freely shared and Komby software is licensed under the Creative Commons ShareAlike 3.0 U.S. license. The Komby environment is based on the work of others (most especially the Arduino group, Maniacbug and the FastLED development group). For the convenience of hobbyists, sells printed circuit boards and bills of material.

The primary beauty of the Komby environment is that it can accept inputs from a variety of protocols — Open DMX, DMX Pro, E1.31 or Renard — and can then output in all those same protocols (as well as drive pixels), mixing and matching as necessary. A previous necessity for hobbyists to standardize on one lighting technology or another no longer exists.

Secondly, a Komby-based system allows for inexpensive, concentrated pixel usage without the need for "null" pixels or problematically long signal runs. A Komby receiver runs around $14 (without power supply) and can drive up to 512 individual devices (single-channel props or 170 three-channel pixels). Further, the receiver is only about 1½-inches by 2¼-inches and can be housed in a PVC pipe or some other small enclosure.

Thirdly, Komby equipment can be used as a basis for Arduino experimentation and because of its open nature, a number of hobbyists are working at becoming developers and providers to the Komby world.

Lastly, you might ask: who or what is Komby? Once the nickname of software engineer living in Sacramento, Calif., up until recently Komby has been Greg Scull, but starting in 2013, the word now equates to a community of like-minded individuals who experiment with digital technology and the equipment they use for holiday light shows.

Example configurations of Komby environments