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Making Dumb Lights Smart with Zigbee: PAC MAN Ghost
Making Dumb Lights Smart with Zigbee: PAC MAN Ghost

Making Dumb Lights Smart with Zigbee: PAC MAN Ghost

A while back I wrote a guide about some cheap LED controllers that work with Hue and HomeKit. For those of you who’ve read it, you might have noticed the PAC-MAN Ghost lamp in the cover photo, and since working on that project I’ve wanted to upgrade it to also be HomeKit controlled.

The lamp’s original functionality is fairly basic, the only real way I would be able to add it to HomeKit would be via a smart plug, and that just won’t do! Whilst this guide does focus on upgrading my PAC-MAN Ghost lamp, you could apply this to make almost any light Hue/HomeKit compatible!

I’ve used a ton of the Gledopto controllers throughout my house and when this idea came into my head I thought it would be the perfect time for another! The full list of equipment that I used for this project (including the lamp) can be found at the bottom of this post, and the only other requirement is to be handy with a soldering iron!

Note: After following this guide you will also need to follow my “Cheap HomeKit LED Controller” guide to get HomeKit control working, but these controllers will work natively with Hue.

Preparing the PAC-MAN Ghost

The first step is to remove the casing of the ghost to see what’s inside. Annoyingly, additionally to the screws, the seam seems to be glued in places, so recommend using a pry tool to get it apart. The guts of the lamp were pretty basic and consisted of a small circuit-board and five LEDs (two to light up the eyes of the ghost, and three for the body).

As we’re replacing the guts we don’t need any of the existing components so can rip them all out. Overall the brightness of the ghost wasn’t ideal anyway, and the fact that it was only five LEDs sealed the deal!

Improving the LEDs

When I thought about improving lamp’s brightness, I thought the best way would be to include several short strips of LEDs across the back. I placed my LEDs as pictured below and after finishing the project am happy with the greatly increased brightness and evenness, so recommend a similar layout. I used some Gaffa Tape to secure the LEDs, but you can use adhesive tape or even glue!

After you’re happy with your LED placement, you can move onto soldering the strips together. I used some four colour coded wires designed for LED strips, annoyingly the order of the LED pins is different to the order of the wire colours but that ultimately doesn’t matter. I also recommend using a snake pattern for wiring up, with some longer cables at the bottom to connect up to the LED controller.

The other aspect of adding LEDs will be for the eyes of the PAC-MAN Ghost. However, there are two methods for doing this depending on which type of controller you pick!

Picking the right LED Controller

Gledopto offers quite a range of different Zigbee LED controllers, for this project I opted for the 2 ID RGBW controller, the reasoning being that I could control the colour of the eyes and body separately as two lights in the Hue/HomeKit app. Wiring the RGB strip to the RGBV+ terminals and then a separate white light to the W and V+ terminals.

If this is not something you want/require, then I recommend picking up either the 1 ID RGBW or 1 ID RGB+CCT controller with the respective LED strip (bare in mind that the RBG+CCT LED strips solder pads are quite small so could be a challenge if you’re not great with a soldering iron). Going down this route you will want to use the 12v input terminals.

Note: Using this method with a single ID controller will mean the eye LEDs will be permanently on.

Once you’ve got your controller of choice you’ll want to prise it open, which you can do along the seam at the bottom of the controller. I highly recommend removing the case so that it takes up less room inside the lamp. One thing to make sure is that you note down the terminal order to avoid guesswork when connecting up each LED.

Adding the eye LEDs

Whilst you could either use the existing LEDs or buy some White LEDs for the task, I went for the far simpler approach! Using a healthy amount of solder, and one segment of the RGB strip, I joined the RGB pins together to a single wire and connected a second wire up to the + pin. Creating two of these strips I taped them both over the eye holes of the Ghost lamp.

At this point I found that the three V+ wires I needed to connect wouldn’t all fit into the terminal so soldered the three wires together to a single wire which I then put into the V+ terminal. I used a small amount of Heat Shrink over the join to avoid any shorts, but you can 100% get away with some electrical tape or just leaving the wires bare.

Assembly and Results

At this point, all of the prerequisites are now complete! I assembled the lamp as you can see in the below picture, placing the controller in a similar location to the original and connected up a 12v power supply.

Note: The hole that I used for the power supply cable wasn’t quite big enough, so used my soldering iron to enlarge it to fit the connector through.

Sealing up the PAC-MAN Ghost and powering it up, I added the controller to the Hue app. If you’re having issues adding this device to Hue then I recommend resetting the device, this is done by turning the power to the unit on and off five times quickly.

The last step to this project was to add the lamp to HomeKit. For me this was as simple as restarting my Homebridge hub and the eyes and main lamp appeared in HomeKit nicely under one device. If you haven’t checked out my previous guide for adding these Gledopto controllers to HomeKit I recommend checking it out here.

Overall I’m extremely happy with the end results of this project, and feel I’ve definitely opened Pandora’s Box in terms of adding existing stuff to HomeKit! If you’ve followed this guide and have any questions about this project, drop a comment below and I’d be more than happy to see your results and answer questions.

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by Sam Brooks

Sam is the founder and editor for Tech Trail. With a background in Broadcast Engineering, and great enthusiasm for smart home and emerging technologies.

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Sam Brooks

Sam is the founder and editor for Tech Trail. A Broadcast Engineer with a passion for technology and design. Working on the bleeding edge of technology Sam is exposed to a vast amount of emerging technologies and likes to keep up to date on the latest tech in general.

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