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Friday Product Post: Spectacle

On this fine Friday, we are very pleased to bring you our brand-new Spectacle product line!

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Hello, everyone! You are joining us on a momentous day this week. Today we are happy to announce our brand-new product line, Spectacle! Spectacle is a product ecosystem centered around a simple idea: creative people shouldn’t have to learn new skills to use electronics in their projects. You’ve spent years developing the skills you use, and SparkFun wants to recognize that and help you expand your creations to include electronics without requiring you to spend years learning about electronics and programming. If you want even more information about our product line, follow the link below to the Spectacle central hub:

Without further ado, let's dive in and take a look at the whole line!

Make a Spectacle out of your next project!

Spectacle Director Board

Spectacle Director Board

$24.95 $9.95

The Spectacle Director Board controls all the actions in a Spectacle project. Though the Director Board doesn't do too much on its own, it is what communicates directly with SparkFun's Spectacle programmer and is the primary distribution channel for power and data in the system. To fully utilize the Director Board make sure to pick up one of the Spectacle daughter boards. This is your Spectacle's connection to the outside world! Needless to say, the Director Board is the must-have part for your Spectacle project and is included in all Spectacle kits (see below).

Spectacle Inertia Board

Spectacle Inertia Board

$19.95 $9.95

The Spectacle Inertia Board makes it easy to sense motion or orientation with a Spectacle project. The Spectacle Inertia Board is designed to allow your Spectacle to detect whether it is moving or stationary, or whether it is under acceleration. At the heart of each Inertia Board is the trustworthy ADXL345 triple-axis MEMS accelerometer. The ADXL345 is a perfect fit for your Spectacle project when it comes to all things Inertia!

Spectacle Motion Board

Spectacle Motion Board

$14.95 $7.95

The Spectacle Motion Board makes it easy to add movement to your Spectacle projects. Each Motion Board can control up to five servo motors, regardless of whether they are standard or continuous rotation type. Designed to make it easy to add simple motions to your Spectacle projects, the Spectacle Motion Board integrates with the rest of the Spectacle ecosystem to make adding motion effects a breeze!

Unlike other Spectacle modules, the Motion Board has a microUSB connector to allow it to be directly powered by an external power supply. This is due to the fact that the relatively slender cables the Spectacle data travels over are not adequate for the large amount of current drawn by larger servo motors or by multiple motors. This board is included in the Spectacle Motion Kit (see below).

Spectacle Audio Board

Spectacle Audio Board

$14.95 $9.95

The Spectacle Audio Board allows you to add sound from a microSD card to your Spectacle projects. Each board accepts a microSD card with sounds in .ogg format, and has a 1/8" (3.5mm) audio jack line-level output ready to be amplified. It is important to know that the files used by the Spectacle Audio Board must be in OGG Vorbis format. This free codec has a higher compression ratio than MP3 and, more importantly, can be used without paying a licensing fee to any third-party organization. We use the free, open source program Audacity to convert from whatever the file’s current format is to OGG Vorbis. This board is included in the Spectacle Sound Kit and Spectacle Light and Sound Kit (see below).

Since this board requires an amplified speaker, we recommend the previously released Hamburger Mini Speaker.

Spectacle Button Board

Spectacle Button Board

$14.95 $6.95

The Spectacle Button Board allows you to add input from buttons, switches or other contact-type sensing devices to your Spectacle projects. This is the largest board in the Spectacle line due to its total of nine signal inputs, allowing for a large number of connections to a single module. Designed to bring simple signals from the world into your Spectacle projects, the Button Board provides input for any of your Spectacle projects! This board is included in all four Spectacle kits (see below).

Spectacle Light Board

Spectacle Light Board


The Spectacle Light Board allows you to add some fairly complex lighting effects to your Spectacle projects in a streamlined manner. Each has connections for you to add addressable LEDs as well as an external power connector. Designed to make it easy to add relatively complex lighting effects to your Spectacle projects, the Spectacle Light Board integrates with the rest of the Spectacle ecosystem to allow you to control lighting effects with ease and comfort. This board is included in the Spectacle Light Kit and the Spectacle Light and Sound Kit (see below).

In addition to the six stand-alone boards, we have developed four kits that include everything you need to get set up!

Spectacle Light Kit


The Spectacle Light Kit makes it easy to illuminate your next project at the push of a button!

Spectacle Motion Kit


The Spectacle Motion Kit enables you to move and manipulate parts and provides perhaps the easiest possible way to control servos out there.

Spectacle Sound Kit


The Spectacle Sound Kit allows you to incorporate sounds, tunes and other effects with very little setup!

Spectacle Light and Sound Kit


Finally, the Spectacle Light and Sound Kit combines two of the previous at a discounted price to provide all of the tools you need to make a fantastic array of lights and sounds in whatever fashion you can dream up!

Don't forget about the programmer!

You can reconfigure your Spectacle project from any device with a web browser and a headphone jack via the online Spectacle Web Programmer, so making last-second changes is never a problem! Also, no soldering is required to connect Spectacle boards or accessories, so swapping out parts is a breeze.

If you buy individual boards in the Spectacle line, you'll need some way to hook them up and power your project:

Lithium Ion Battery Pack - 2.2Ah (USB)

3 Retired

Power on the go? Why didn't you ask? We've got plenty! These portable, rechargeable 2.2Ah lithium ion battery packs are simple, compact and make for a great way to power your widgets in the field. Best of all, they're dead simple to operate: just connect your device to the USB-A port on the battery pack and press the power button. A 7-segment LED will alert you to the charge level of the battery and start powering your device. To recharge the battery pack, just plug it into your computer or phone charger using the included USB micro-B cable.

Lithium Ion Battery Pack - 5Ah (USB)


This particular battery pack has a 5,000mAh capacity and will source 1,000mA at 5VDC. Additionally, it has a built-in charging cable to charge (or power) whatever device you jack it into.

Audio Cable TRRS - 1ft

Audio Cable TRRS - 1ft


This is a foot-long white audio cable that has been terminated with two TRRS connectors at each end. TRRS connectors are the 3.5mm audio-style connectors that you see on some phones, MP3 players and development boards (like Spectacle). This common cable will be the major connector you use to hook up your Spectacle project.

Audio Cable TRRS - 3ft

Audio Cable TRRS - 3ft


If a foot isn't long enough, we also offer a 3-foot-long audio cable. It is the exact same cable as its sibling above, just two feet longer.

Spade Connector Wire - 3ft, Female (2 Pack)

Spade Connector Wire - 3ft, Female (2 Pack)


These simple 24AWG wires are terminated with a female insulated spade connector at one end and a braided wire lead at the other. Each wire is 3 feet long and is capable of supporting a high voltage of 300VDC. Each order comes in a pack of two.

These wires are great when used in conjunction with the Spectacle Button Board and our concave arcade buttons!

JST to JST-SM Wire - 1ft

JST to JST-SM Wire - 1ft


Lastly, these JST to JST-SW wires are perfect for hooking up addressable LED strips to our Spectacle Light Board!

Alright, folks, that's it for this week. We really hope you enjoy the new Spectacle product line; it certainly has been a labor of love for us. Remember, if you have any questions about the line be sure to check out the Spectacle Home Page for more information.

Make something cool? Shoot us a tweet @sparkfun, or let us know on Instagram or Facebook. We'd love to see what project you've turned into a Spectacle! See you next Friday with even more new products!

Comments 22 comments

  • Very cool! Interesting way of hooking up boards and using the audio jack to upload programs. A lot of work must have gone into the software for this project.

    • Thank you, very much! This was a huge undertaking that involved every single person here at SparkFun. We are happy how it is turning out so far and we are excited to see Spectacle grow!

  • OK, this is really neat. Is it entirely self contained? Can I somehow get events from the internet and make it do things from webhooks or something like that?

    • 1.0 doesn't have IoT capability. That's something we looked at but for various reasons discarded. It's definitely on the radar for a 2.0 version, assuming Spectacle does well enough to warrant a 2.0 version!

  • Hmm... "what's old is new again"... AFSK... old time modem technology... well, at least we don't have to try to put the phone into an acoustic coupler! :-) (When I bought my first modem, in about 1978, the going price was $1/baud -- a 300 baud modem was $295, a 1200 was $1195, and a 9600 was $9595 [but you had to have a "conditioned" point-to-point phone line].) I wonder what the baud rate is...

    Anyway, a thought wandered through my head: In the video you said that you "get approached by artists". It occurred to me that maybe there could be some way of getting electronics hobbyists together with artists needing help for "collaborative works"...

    • Funny isn't it? We were scanning through a bunch of documentation from the 70s and 80s while building our FSK implementation and the example applications were all in machine code because C compilers were non-existent/prohibitively expensive.

      We're only running ours at 450 baud which seems slow by today's standards but considering our config files are never that large, it works out!

      You make a good point about matching people up for collaboration. That happens at a lot of makerspaces, which is where I try to steer most people.

      • Actually, Nick, most of the modems in those days did it in hardware. There are (were) various chips that would encode/decode the FSK, and a UART chip to do the conversion between serial and parallel and handle things like parity and start/stop bits. The microprocessors of the day required separate EPROM (or ROM) and RAM chips, and some even required other support chips (such as the 8080A's clock generator), so the chip count was actually lower to do it all in hardware.

        450 is an "oddball" speed. I would have encouraged you to go with either 300 or 600, as it would at least not "paint you into a corner" if you tried to communicate with a "hacked" modem from the "good old days". (Most modems that would do faster, say, 1200 or 2400, could also be set for 600, though it was rarely used in practice.)

        It's a bummer about the iPhone 7. Do you happen to know if it works with the iPhone SE? (I just got one about 2 weeks ago.) Another thought: would it work with the "headphone" jack of a laptop?

        Also, on the "volume" issue, back in the day, both processor speed and available memory space made "software filtering" very problematic. I'm suspecting that the examples you saw were relying on driving the signal into clipping, rather than doing any real filtering in software. These days, we have far more powerful processors and vastly more program space available at very little cost, so you might be able to apply some filtering algorithms and get away from having to have "volume all the way up". Oh, yes: another "simple" solution might be to make available a small audio amp to go between the cell phone and the Spectacle.

        • One more thought, Nick: You might look at what the Amateur Radio folks have done using the "sound card" from a computer to send/receive digital data. I suspect that a good deal of that is in C (though I haven't examined it myself). They can get data through in some pretty bad conditions. (During the time when Iraq occupied Kuwait, there was one "ham" who got data out to another ham in the U.S. The guy in Kuwait was using "minimal" power [less than a watt], but the guy in the U.S. was using "legal maximum" [kilowatt], so that Iraqi attempts to "direction find" would point to the U.S. The guy in the U.S. also had a "high-gain" antenna.)

          • That's wild! I'm actually a ham myself (KE0MKA) and I've been interested in trying that. I just haven't had the time to get into it.

            When we first came up with the idea of using audio modulation to configure the Spectacle boards (about the same time Chrome dumped Chrome.serial support) we started geeking out about all the ways you could send and receive configuration states: Over the phone, over radio, via MP3, cut on flexidisks... you could even make a self-replicating Spectacle project that plays its own configuration file using the Audio Board. Haha.

            • Actually, that's not a bad idea for demoing/sharing spectacle projects at a MakerFair or conference. Have up to 8 projects saved as sound files on an Audio Board using the 8 buttons on the button board to select which one to "play" to easily and quickly program user's setups. No need to login anywhere or try to use an over-saturated WiFi system.

              (Edited to correct my bad memory of the number of buttons on the button board after watching the How-To video only once...)

              At first brush my first concern for this is whether the OGG Vorbis lossy compression would garble the encoding. But, that is something that should (hopefully) be straightforward to test. (i.e. try it with several different projects of varying complexity, much like I presume you did while trying to narrow into the correct baud rate.)

        • Oh yeah, sure, we had even considered using hardware designed for that purpose instead of relying on our controller to do the work, but most of those parts seemed to also include stuff that was unnecessary to our application like phone line transformers and auto-answering circuitry.

          I was actually talking about things like this delightful application note on the MSP430 (one of the later that we ran across... 1998) http://www.ti.com/lit/an/slaa037/slaa037.pdf

          450 is most certainly an oddball speed but we found that it was the fastest and most reliable. Remember, this product ecosystem is developed for ease of use and not for "hackability" (although the firmware is open source so you could certainly set yours up for 300) We talked about it a lot over the course of development: If we went up to 600, programming would occasionally fail; if we went down to 300, programming would take longer than it had to. Both are not great for user experience. If the only upside is in favor compatibility with 40 year old tech (as cool of a hack as it would be) we couldn't justify slowing it down.

          I agree about the iPhone, for a number of reasons actually. Not just because it makes it harder to work with the Spectacle system but because it seems like a move toward stricter DRM. Someone at Wired, I think, wrote an interesting article in that regard.

          Yes! Spectacle works fabulously with a laptop, in fact the "How to Program with Spectacle" video was captured while using the system on my laptop. Because laptops tend to have beefier amps and fewer "safety stops" to save your hearing, you can really crank up the signal, as well, and so it seems like compatibility among laptops is higher than among phones.

          Yes, we saw many many examples of exactly the type that you're talking about dating from as recently as an Arduino implementation. In fact, we started by using ASK, driving to clip and then electrically shifting it and reading it with a UART. That was spotty at best so I re-wrote my ASK web-audio implementation to FSK and Mike did some really great work demodulating on the hardware side and we got much better results. One thing that I'm considering for Spectacle 2.0 Director Boards is the addition of a Bluetooth Audio device. That would enable wireless "programming" and it would also give us full control over the signal condition going into demodulation (same DAC and amp every time, the one on the Bluetooth device). I am afraid in the meantime that we may find a need for inline amps to boost compatibility with some phones, especially in parts of the EU where there are legal caps on phone volume (or so I'm told)

  • I might have to try these out sometime. I think a ESP8266 Wifi Board and a OLED or LCD board would be great additions to the product line.

  • Very cool! But... it isn't red?

    • I know right?

      We like red boards because they stand out! But in this case, we don't want the boards to stand out too much. They should be easy to hide in a costume, prop, artwork, etc.

      • Regarding hiding, maybe also provide TRRS cables in black instead of "HEY LOOK AT ME" white?

  • So, not programmable from a stock iPhone 7?

    • They announced this change just as we were designing the system. There are ideas floating around to do our AFSK programming over Bluetooth Audio on a future version of the Director Board which will solve a lot of cases where the current method can be shaky.

      Sorry, I know it's a bummer

    • If the rumors are true, there may be similar issues with the Pixel 2 phones from Google. Lots of rumors are suggesting that the headphone jack will be missing from those phones as well. :`(

    • Sorry, you'll need an adapter of some sort. Don't blame us, blame Apple! :)

  • The new boards look great, and the huge documentation drop looks fantastic.

    Just an FYI, the buttons on the "View the Boards" banner on https://www.sparkfun.com/pages/spectacle don't point to the right products:

    Light Board -> Audio Board Audio Board -> Motion Board Motion Board -> Light Board

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