SmartPoi – new Web Software to upload images.

I wrote some new code, so now you can upload offline images from a web browser! Finally the (old) poi can take advantage of the hack I did to have up to 52 offline images displaying.

First, install the latest SmartPoi firmware (otherwise the web upload won’t work)

Then clone this repository here to your computer and follow the instructions in the README. It all runs in a web browser, nothing to install or download (currently tested working on 36px poi using Firefox browser).

Thanks to Andreas for giving me the reason to make this – look out for updates to the SmartPoi project, more control from a web browser coming soon. I think I already mentioned this in my previous blog post – I am a bit tired of fighting with Android!

SmartPoi have a hidden feature I didn’t tell anyone about yet

So far I haven’t gotten my new ESP32 based version of SmartPoi hardware working (re-named MagicPoi) – make no mistake, it’s coming but due to various reasons this keeps getting delayed. *ESP32 dual core is a game changer, that’s all I’m going to say here.

My ESP8266 based SmartPoi 36 and 72px poi are still going strong, on their third battery (now Lithium). So I got bored recently and instead of working on the new poi I had another look at SmartPoi Arduino code and remembered the “Hidden Feature” – Router Mode!

Activating Router Mode

First of all, make sure you have the latest firmware. This is because the older versions may not include the fail-safe I built in. Remember that “Main” and “Auxillary” poi – and number of pixels – need to be set in code, before uploading. So in the SmartPoi app there is a menu entry called “Settings” – with Pattern and Channel fields as well as Router settings. Fill these in, using your own router settings to guide you. My address is with Address2 79 but your router may be 192.168.1.xx or something completely different – the last numbers are for the fixed IP on your network, please consult the router options for available addresses on your own network.

Once you press “Send Request”, nothing happens. That is for a reason, it was an experimental feature and I didn’t want to brick anyone’s poi if they accidentally put the wrong Router or Password.. In order to activate the setting you have to go to a browser (on a device connected to the poi Access Point) and put in and then

First the “Auxillary” poi (78), then the “Main” poi (1) please or it won’t work! At your own risk! You may need to try again if it doesn’t work.

What this does is set the poi to start up 50% of the time in STA mode – connected to your router with the static IP address you configured with “Settings”. Every time you switch the poi off and on again it changes, AP mode then STA mode and back again. Make sure to keep the 2 poi in sync, that is on the same startup mode as each other!

Both Poi will show a green . . . . . indicator when attempting to connect and fast green ……. when connected. If you see green dots going up slowly for ages it means it’s not connecting and the Router and Password need to be checked (in AP mode with the app)

What is this for?

AP mode is simple – your phone connects to the poi direct, no router needed. I have noticed, however that the AP signal is pretty weak on the ESP-01 so using a router could help reliability.

Also, ESP-01 AP mode can only connect 4 devices at a time – including the phone, so that’s 2 pairs of poi and controller max. With a router connection you could have a lot more.

Finally the Router connects to the internet. This is helpful because I am moving all of the functionality to the cloud (sorry) mainly due to being sick of Google changing things for Android developers all of the time – breaking things really. It’s too frustrating so I’m moving everything to the cloud. The Offline mode remains the same.

My SmartPoi demo app doesn’t work anymore!?

Yes I haven’t had a chance to do anything with the Router Mode yet – the Android code doesn’t know about your new STA mode IP address. You can use the C code from the circusscientist site here with the new IP address for example:

To switch off the Router option just do the following in a browser connected to the poi AP (poi in AP mode so not connected to your router) and then

The SmartPoi Router option will soon be accessible from the main “MagicPoi” site, with downloads of your offline images (72px only) direct from the browser, control of functions, and more!

Image Classification for Magic Poi images using Machine Learning

The title says it all. Here are a couple of video’s to demonstrate the process:

Testing the version 5 ML model accuracy:

Testing the image recognition model

Deployed using temporary database:

I added a filter for different categories found by the machine learing model


  • New images uploaded are not categorized – because I did the classification at home and just uploaded the database. I still need to get the image recognition to work on the server.
  • Scrolling is really not great, gets stuck sometimes and also new images loaded aren’t filtered.
  • Re-categorizing support – and support for more than one category per image
  • Remove bad images (or just hide them).
  • Refine the model to do better (“text-img” recognition isn’t great, for example).
  • Add more categories.

The categories are live! Check out (and sign up for the good stuff).

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bin files and Magic Poi

I recently received a question via email which I thought might need a bit of answering – “Hello, may I ask how to convert the image into a bin file? I couldn’t find the source code on the website and look forward to your reply. Thank you very much.” Here is my response:

(tl:dr I didn’t share source yet but there are two ways to do it)

Great question! I haven’t been working on the file access much yet for the new MagicPoi. The hardware and getting the binary files is coming second to having an easy way to manage images – which I am spending most of my time on right now.

The Android app had a bug with creating .bin files which I never managed to fix, so I did update the “Smartpoi Android App” page to link to two PC programs which you can download – see the page here: – just scroll to the bottom to see the (Linux Only) versions. These are easy-to-use drag-and-drop apps which will convert the image files to .bin format and also upload wirelessly to any connected poi. The .bin files are stored temporarily in a folder in the program files, I am sure you can find them there once you try it. I didn’t share the source because frankly the code is a terrible mess which even I am embarrassed about #messyprogrammer – I am getting better at this by the way, look forward to some documentation coming soon!

Currently the magicpoi website api is limited to returning 10 image names. You can see this by typing this into the browser url bar:

To download one of the .bin files listed, you can use the filename(xxx.jpg.bin), also in the browser bar – eg:

Incidentally the example PlatformIO sketch linked from the “api” section here does exactly this, getting the list of 10 files and then using the /api/output endpoint to download .bin files – to the D1 Mini in this case – and then displaying them in 72px. I would have to check but I think maybe all .bin files are compressed to 72px.. yes I checked – currently that’s the default, with option to support any size (thank goodness).

All files which are uploaded using the site are automatically converted to .bin files. The .bin files are simply compressed image files – with one byte representing one pixel in R3G3B2 format (in the case of MagicPoi I think I rotate them 90 degrees also for the line by line scanning).

To get any image .bin file from the MagicPoi site at the moment you can use a quick hack – if it is an image you uploaded yourself you have to “share” it for this to work. Then scroll down to where the original image is visible (on the “profile” page) – not the rotated version! Right click and select “Open image in new tab” or just “copy url” – then go to the new tab and copy the image name. Now use the name with “.bin” added on for the download api:

I’m sorry I haven’t really been working on the poi hardware and that side of the project. Like I said, I’m focusing right now on front end usability for the web interface. Soon there will be categories for the images, for example, and sorting.

Once the interface is working I will return to hardware and firmware – and also documentation and new features as well as proper api accessibility.

I hope my response answered your question. Everything is a work in progress, but there is progress.



Computer generated Magic Poi patterns with P5.js

Computer generated patterns – let me count the ways.

  • C++ code on-device

    – a simple for-loop using FastLED’s “Palletes”
  • Processing code – on Android, streaming to poi.

    – created using Processing “Mask”, the coloured parts of the image change colour to create an ever-changing image sequence. I also implemented a sound activated version which shows a pattern according to volume on different frequencies (“Beats”) and a static “Cylon” effect (“Zap Game”)
  • Similarly C can be used to stream generated patterns to the poi (see here).
  • I have experimented with AI generators using different prompts – for example:

    – These are from “Midjourney”
  • Finally, my current mission, using P5.js within the magicpoi website to generate pics with code. Examples:


The above example creates an infinite succession of 72x72px images – perfect for display on my 72px poi. I adapted the code from this showcase example on the P5js website.

My plan is to add this – and many more – options to the magicpoi website. They will complement the user generated images and be downloadable directly to the internet connected Magic Poi.

PS: Currently, if you want to see what any of the images generated above will look like on the poi, you can right click on the changing image, select “open image in new tab”, download the image and then on the magicpoi profile page (you need to be signed in for this to work – sign up, it’s free!) select upload and drag the image onto the page, or choose it from the file menu. Then you can turn this: into this:

As you can see, the possibilities are endless. I plan on making the P5.js image generation into a plug-in system for Magic Poi.

Upgrading the Magic Poi site

Currently the Magic Poi site relies on some Processing (Java) code which is called from python – as well as other bash scripts to do certain things. I wanted to make it faster and cleaner by using Python for everything, so I did some test scripts. (Github). Also, the Processing code required a virtual screen buffer to run on the server constantly!

The main functionality involves compressing images into the .bin files which are saved to the poi memory for display. Since there is limited memory, and to save bandwidth, I am using the R3G3B2 algorithm to compress images. The poi only accepts images which are rotated 90 degrees clockwise, so that needs to happen too, as well as dynamically re-sizing any images which are wider than the 72px available.

I am still conflicted about whether to keep the Android app as the control for the poi, or to do something else, but making everything available as an api on the server keeps it flexible for now. The RotateImageVisualPoiStyle api can be accessed right now. Upload your image, and see what it will look like on the poi!

# change the /path/to/image.jpg to your own image file name
curl --location --request POST '' --form 'file=@"/path/to/image.jpg"' --form 'fixed_width="72"' --output 'rotated_image.jpg'

MagicPoi – slow progress


The factory where MagicPoi were being developed had a fire last month! All of the prototype poi melted, so all I have left is my breadboard version. This is going to cause some delays..


  • The Magic Poi website now saves .bin files for every image uploaded. This is accessible via an api which I am working on accessing from the ESP32 and ESP8266. The .bin files are byte compressed images for display on the poi.

    Example – list all shared .bin files on the server:

    One thing to note is that for testing purposes, all new .bin files are shared now. Please be aware that your images could be accessed (temporarily). This is because authentication is an extra step, so I’m working on the basic functionality first, with a public folder. The authentication works using jwt and I am having to access it from Java and C++. I already have a working Arduino test code which implements jwt correctly – security is important, so I want to do it right. One problem I already had to overcome is the fact that LittleFS file system has a limit of 31 characters for filenames (including path). The randomly generated filenames on the server are longer than this.
  • Not sure if I mentioned this before, the SmartPoi “Upload for offline use” option in the Android app doesn’t upload the whole image at the moment. I am not sure why, perhaps it’s something to do with the timing loop moving to the next image too fast.
    This option is going to be replaced by the web api anyway, so it’s not a priority, but I have compiled a desktop app which I use for converting and uploading (Linux only). You can get that for 36px here or 72px here – it can upload 20 images, just drag and drop your pics (need to be 90 degrees rotated, unlike the website) onto the window, connect to Poi AP and press “Upload”. You need to extract it and run from the command line but it should work on any Linux distro (tested on Ubuntu and Arch).
    At some point I will probably get annoyed at having to use my Laptop to upload images and fix the app though. Do email me if you need this for Windows, I might be persuaded to compile it for you using a VM if you ask nicely.
  • With the new APA102 2020 version being more available now, when Magic Poi is eventually launched it will have at least 100px, I’m thinking 128 is a good number but don’t quote me.
  • You may have noticed all of the hype around AI lately. A few years ago I used GAN with PyTorch to generate images for the poi (after training with around 100 poi pics, probably not enough). It was a big fail, but maybe it’s time to take another look. Would it be cool if you could just tell your poi what type of image you want to display, and it did it instantly?
    I do already have loads of Processing sketches I made to try and computer generate nice pics (some are on the Android App).

Feedback is always welcome.

Smart Poi revisited

Magic Poi, with the firmware written in and the web interface in Flask is the future. Currently I don’t have a working set*, though, and due to upcoming shows I needed to make some changes to the existing Smart Poi.

*Due to other commitments, the company who are doing the hardware design for me have put the build on hold for now.


LiPO batteries instead of NIMH

I have resisted using LiPO batteries for my projects up until now, but since I was already getting some for my K8 equipment upgrade I bought some 1000MAH LiPO batteries for the 32px poi. The voltage regulator I have in the circuit (LM117) is not optimal for these, I believe that it is not using the batteries full capacity – but it does work!

Quick uploading of offline patterns

At the time I wrote much of the Android app which pairs with Smart Poi (in 2017!), I was set on having all of the patterns stream from the smartphone to the poi over WiFi. In the real world unfortunately I found that due to WiFi interference this was not possible at most venues, where the 2.4GHZ spectrum is saturated and the stream stutters. So I made a way to upload and display patterns directly from the ESP8266 flash. Initially this was done with UDP as the streaming was taking place, then I moved over to http post. The latest update to the app disables UDP while the post is being sent, so uploads are really fast. I hope to refine this and port to the 72px version as well in the near future. You can get the apk for the latest version (so far only tested on Android 10) here – any future updates will be made to the same file. *Please note that the text message option still crashes, I am looking at this as a matter of urgency! Also, on first run the app sets up some example images and may need a restart (possibly even a phone reboot) to work correctly.

Magic Poi Lite version

I am working on a ‘lite’ single colour version of “Magic Poi”. The plan is to eventually replace all of my juggling equipment with internet enabled equipment which can sync using a web interface, like “Magic Poi”. The first test page is up here: and includes a colour change function and a really cool “Automatic Poi Simulator” visualisation which was kindly shared with me by Danny Thomas from Eventually this page will have a timeline (to music) function, and ability to download to the equipment. The firmware will also include offline capability, which will disable the WiFi to save power during operation.

Many thanks to all those who continue to support this project. Smart Poi continue be a part of my performance every week. I’m inspired by the thought of enabling more people to make reasonably priced POV poi and other LED equipment which can do as much as, or more than the commercial versions.

As always, if you haven’t already, head on over to the Smart Poi Overview page and sign up to the newsletter for occasional progress updates. Feedback is welcome.

PS: did you know that every time someone visits my website, an LED flashes on my desk? I made an online service and open source firmware for the D1 mini which means that almost anyone with a website can have the same functionality. Check out if you are interested!