Are you looking into these creepy animated eyes…or are they looking into you?

These peepers were inspired by a concept by David Boccabella (Marcwolf) on the Stan Winston School of Character Arts forums. David is creating servo-driven animatronic eyes with a small OLED screen to simulate a dilating pupil. I'd chimed in with some suggestions and code to boost the refresh rate. Taking it to the next level here, we can render the entire eye…this makes the overall project simpler, as animatronics can be very fussy work (and the noise detracts from live performance).

This is a “choose your own adventure” project. There are many ways to build it…this guide is not really aiming toward any particular finished thing. It’s the start of a recipe, but where it goes is up to your imagination…

  • Spooky eyes in the window for Halloween
  • An amazing costume for Dragon*Con
  • A single eye worn in a pendant or a bracer, or in the headpiece of a staff
  • World’s creepiest taxidermy

Read through to see what parts are involved for different configurations.

Parts from Adafruit:

  • PJRC Teensy 3.2 microcontroller (one board will control 1 or 2 eyes); Teensy 3.1 will also work.
  • Display(s) - one per eye: either 1.5" OLED or 1.44" TFT. OLED looks amazing but costs more. TFT is affordable but colors are less intense. Tradeoffs!

Additional parts and tools:

  • Soldering iron and paraphernalia
  • 28 gauge ribbon cable
  • Optional: 1.5" Acrylic cabochons (half-spheres)
  • Optional: 3D printer to make enclosures, held with #2-56 screws and nuts
  • Optional: LiPoly Backpack and battery (500mAh for OLED, 150mAh for TFT)

The following components are OPTIONAL. Our software can handle all of these effects autonomously, but you can optionally add any or all of these parts to enable manual control:

  • Analog joystick for movement
  • Button(s) for eye blinks or winks
  • Photocell makes pupils react to light

This project requires the Teensy 3.2 (or 3.1) microcontroller. Not the Teensy 2, 3.0, LC, nor any other Arduino-like board, period. It relies on features unique to this chip.

(Actually the code can work on Adafruit M0 and M4 boards, but you’ll need to change some pin assignments and edit the config.h file that’s part of the code.)

This project involves detailed soldering around costly parts; read through before deciding if this guide is for you. Newcomers to electronics might start with the Animating Multiple LED Backpacks guide — it achieves a similar effect with easier, more affordable components!

This guide was first published on Sep 07, 2015. It was last updated on Sep 07, 2015. This page (Overview) was last updated on Oct 21, 2019.