These backpacks drive the massive 1.2" 7-segment modules. With 2 leds per segment these make a gorgeous and impressive display. The 7-segment displays normally require 16 pins to drive. This backpack uses an I2C constant-current matrix controller on the back of the PCB, so you only need 2 pins to drive it!
The controller chip takes care of multiplexing all the LEDs in the background. All you have to do is write data to it using the 2-pin I2C interface. There are three address select pins so you can select one of 8 addresses to control up to 8 of these on a single 2-pin I2C bus (as well as whatever other I2C chips or sensors you like). The driver chip can 'dim' the entire display from 1/16 brightness up to full brightness in 1/16th steps. It cannot dim individual LEDs, only the entire display at once.
New! As of June 13, 2023 we have updated the backpack board to have a 5V boost converter which means you can use it with 3.3V power and get nice bright LED segments without having to wire up a separate 5V power supply. It also has Stemma QT ports for plug-n-play connectivity