RGB Shades Kit v2

Wearable slotted shades with a bright full color pixel array you can see through!

Incredible, hackable, Arduino-compatible, and COOL.

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Product Info

  • 68 WS2812B RGB LEDs, 16×5 logical matrix
  • ATmega328P at 16MHz, Arduino-compatible bootloader
  • I/O pins available for hacking

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Hackaday Review

The second generation of RGB Shades are here!  These specs are a wearable LED matrix shaped like slotted sunglasses with an array of 68 bright full-color pixels on the front. The LEDs can show different colors by mixing levels of red, green, and blue...just like the screen on your computer or phone. An integrated Arduino-compatible microcontroller controls the color of each pixel to display a wide range of colorful animations.

Though the LEDs are bright from the outside - REALLY bright - they're almost invisible from the inside. You can see through the slots just fine (as well as boring, normal slotted shades anyway).

Fair warning: when you wear these, you'll be the center of attention! They're impossible to ignore, and the ultimate conversation starter. You're a mobile light show and people will stop you to talk to you...if you need to get across a crowded room quickly, it's OK to turn off the RGB Shades for a few minutes!

What do you get?

You'll receive an LED panel with 68 full-color pixels, a controller board, a spare "hacker" board for adding your own circuits, and all the parts and metal hardware needed to assemble the frame, plus a small hex wrench. You'll also receive a special thin USB cable that runs to your power source. The USB cable is very thin for optimal wearability; due to the very thin wires inside, you may need to switch to a regular USB cable in order to reprogram the shades on some computers.


RGB Shades are constructed entirely of carefully designed circuit board material. Usually, PCBs are hidden away inside an enclosure, but the folks at Macetech have used 3D modeling and precise manufacturing techniques to create a puzzle-like structure that is very strong and folds just like normal sunglasses. All electronic components are exposed and they recommend being careful with direct impact and exposure to water, but they're actually quite durable!

The RGB Shades Kit is shipped with electronic parts fully assembled, but requires some mechanical assembly (no soldering needed). You'll need to fit several parts together (it's pretty fun, and takes about 15 minutes), install eight screws, and plug in a cable. Included is a hex wrench, though you'll also need a small Philips screwdriver, a small pair of pliers or tweezer, and threadlocking compound or glue. Full instructions available here: http://docs.macetech.com/doku.php/rgb_shades

The following video shows how to assemble your RGB Shades:

Power Source

The RGB Shades don't have an integrated battery. They require a lot more power, so included is a thin USB power cable that can be attached to a wide range of portable rechargeable USB battery packs. It's recommended to use packs that can output at least 1.0 amps at 5 volts, with capacities of 2000mAh or better to run the RGB Shades for several hours.

How do they work?

The pixels each contain a small chip that receives commands over a wire, sets the LED color, and passes commands to the next LED. The front panel is a PCB (printed circuit board) which connects all the LEDs in a single zig-zag chain across the panel. Our program maps the physical pixel locations to the correct LED on the chain.

The program is stored inside an Atmel ATmega328 microcontroller chip on the control PCB. This PCB also has a USB interface (for loading new programs), a power switch, and two buttons for interacting with the program. Controller and example code is compatible with the popular open source Arduino cross-platform programming environment. That means you can write or upload programs on Windows, Mac OSX, and Linux computers, using free downloadable software. You'll also have access to a huge community of Arduino experts, books, and examples if you'd like to learn how to write your own programs.


The RGB Shades are intended for entertainment purposes only. They do not provide any eye protection, either from sunlight or flying objects. Vision is partially limited while wearing these, and they should never be used while driving or operating any other machinery that could potentially cause harm to yourself or others. Please take extra care while walking, and remove the glasses if there is a risk of tripping or bumping into objects or people. In most cases, vision is more than adequate to navigate a crowded room without any problems, but removing the RGB Shades for a few seconds is much less embarrassing than falling down.

Since the RGB Shades are made from exposed circuit boards, they are FRAGILE and should be treated with care. Do not bend, twist, hit, or scratch the circuit boards. A small scratch from a metal object could easily prevent one or all of the LEDs from working. Keep away from liquids; if splashed, turn off immediately and let dry before testing again. Keep away from any conductive objects; placing them in a pocket with keys and coins is likely to result in damage. Do not drop the glasses on a hard surface. We recommend tying a string through the holes at the ends of the side PCBs or using a neck strap so that the glasses do not fall off of your face. In summary, the RGB Shades are more fragile than your cell phone, so please treat them accordingly. Damage to the PCB itself (scratches or excessive bending) cannot be repaired.



  • Display Area: 68 WS2812B RGB LEDs, 16×5 logical matrix.
  • Display Bitdepth: 256-level PWM brightness control of each color on each LED.
  • Display Brightness: Global brightness control of full array (up to 256 levels).
  • Power Supply: 5V 1A (through mini-USB connector).
  • Battery Life: About 3 hours on 2000mAh battery pack, variable.
  • On-board Processor: ATmega328P at 16MHz, Arduino-compatible bootloader.
  • Communications: Built-in FTDI USB-RS232 converter.
  • Auxiliary Interface: I/O pins available for hacking .

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