Here’s a project to dazzle onlookers at Halloween parties, cosplay conventions, raves or at Burning Man. These full-color animated LED goggles attract a LOT of attention!
Adafruit NeoPixel LED rings fit perfectly inside the eyecups of most 50mm round goggles — a very common size. It’s almost as if these rings were made with this project in mind! (Actually, they were…then our clever customers came up with a million and one other uses.)

IMPORTANT: Before You Proceed…

Although this not a technically advanced project, it is nonetheless quite challenging. Small parts are used in confined spaces, and special tools and techniques are used. While not overtly dangerous, there’s still some potential for damage or injury. Read through everything first to decide if you really want to tackle this. Young makers should read through with a parent to help decide. We have other wearable electronics projects that are less daunting!

Tools Needed

This is a soldering project, albeit a small one. You will need the common soldering paraphernalia of a soldering iron, solder, wire (20 to 26 gauge, either stranded or solid) and tools for cutting and stripping wire.

You’ll need some method of securing the electronics inside the goggles. Hot-melt glue (with a glue gun) works well for this. Watch your fingers! Tape could be used for a quick and temporary setup.

Some steps require perseverance. You will need to provide your own; we do not sell patience in the shop :)

Parts needed

  • Goggles with 50mm (2 inch) round lenses. We have some in the shop that are perfectly sized for this project. Alternately, a well-stocked costume store may have something suitable, Restoration Hardware sells these nifty German goggles, or you might brave the wilds of eBay for “steampunk goggles” or similar. Plastic is best; that way there will be no concerns there about contacting metal.
  • NeoPixel Ring(s): two if you want to decorate both lenses, or just one for a monocle effect. Two is awesome, but uses 2x the power!
  • Battery: either a lithium-polymer battery or a 3x AA battery case (read explanation below before deciding).
  • Adafruit Trinket: 3.3V version is great, but 5V works well too.
  • Heat-shrink tubing is recommended for insulating the wire connections.
  • Optional: diffuser lenses for the goggles, to help soften the light from the LEDs. These can simply be cut from paper, or if you have access to a laser cutter you can get all fancy with white acrylic.
An assortment of goggles…the two in front are legitimate safety and welding goggles, while the two in back are costume shop and toy store finds. Yet they all use 50mm round lenses!

Second photo shows the inexpensive “costume goggles” in the Adafruit shop.

Battery Selection

Choose one of the following to fit your budget and desired run time:

Lithium polymer (LiPo):

  • The 150 mAh LiPo battery is tiny and easily fits within the goggles, but the power capacity is limited and run time will be shorter. To improve run times, the software can be changed to lower the overall LED brightness and reduce power usage. Or you can substitute a larger LiPo battery…but if it’s too big it won’t fit inside the goggles, you’d need to run wires and hide the battery elsewhere.
  • Costs more initially, but is rechargeable.
  • You’ll also need a LiPo charger and JST socket inside the goggles. For the latter, cut a LiPo battery extension cable in half. The battery gets disconnected for charging (doesn’t charge in-place).

3 AA alkaline cells:

  • This saves money initially; the battery case and cells are inexpensive and you don’t need a charger.
  • Provides excellent run time. You can use brighter, showier LED patterns. And you can easily swap a fresh set of batteries.
  • The battery pack is much larger and heavier. It won't fit inside the goggles — you’ll need to run wires and put the battery pack in a pocket or conceal it behind (or within) a hat.

Can I use a Gemma instead of Trinket?

Absolutely! You won’t need the extra JST cable for the LiPo battery — Gemma has that plug built-in. The board is a bit wider and might be more challenging to fit, but one option is to show it off rather than conceal it, mounting the board on the outside of the goggles near one temple. Geek pride!
Last updated on 2014-04-17 at 04.15.18 AM Published on 2013-09-13 at 04.20.42 PM