HappyGem is an electronic art project designed for facilitating interaction at Burning Man

The HappyGem is designed a a necklace. Each gem has 16 color LED lights and a low power wireless chip. The wireless technology allows us to sense the distance to other people wearing the device.

For Burning Man we programmed the HappyGems so that each person has a unique animated color pattern which is generated by a digital DNA stored on their gem. When you find another person with a HappyGem you can give them a hug. The HappyGems will then exchange their DNA and mix them together to form a new pattern.

In addition we made it so that the HappyGems flashed white when you're nearby somebody you haven't hugged before, which helped you find other people wearing HappyGems. We also built in a button which would turn the HappyGem into a flashlight.

We managed to get funding to make 100 HappyGems which we brought to Burning Man 2012. Thank you to all our pledgers!

Our Kickstarter Page

The following is our promotional video for Kickstarter.


HappyGem was designed and prototyped in Trondheim, Norway. We soldered the final devices in Los Angeles before Burning Man. We recieved our Kickstarter funding through our team member in Portland, Oregon.


Audun Wilhelmsen
Electronics, Software, Graphical and Web Design, Soldering

Fredrik Persen Fostvedt
Algorithm, Software, Graphical Design, Funding and Marketing

Rofan Chu
Soldering, Assembly, Neckbands

Ashkahn Jahromi
Being a US citizen (Kickstarter funding),
Making everyone feel really good

What's next?

We're currently working on a new version of the gem. It's smaller and has a USB port. But we have some hurdles to overcome. We're moving away from a module-based design to a custom one, which means we need to get FCC/CE certification. It will be sold commercially to electronics hobbyists/hackers, under a different name and logo. We hope to bring them to next years Burning Man if we can finish them in time, and figure out how we can continue to keep the project in line with the Burning Man spirit.

If you want news about our upcoming projects, you can sign up to our mailing list:



We've put the software up on GitHub:
It includes a makefile to compile the software and program the device. It's based on avr-gcc and avrdude. We used Mac OS X for development, so we used the excellent CrossPack by Objective Development. If you're using Linux, you might be able to get what you need through your favorite package manager. If you're using Windows, there's WinAVR, but you're probably going to have to tweak the makefiles. You can also use AVR Studio, by creating a new project, configuring it for Atmega128RFA1, and adding the files to the project.


To program the device, you're going to need a JTAG debugger. We used the AVR Dragon, which is the cheapest one you can get from Atmel. But there are even cheaper ones out there.

You're also going to have to get an adapter, as we're using a customized JTAG connector. You can either look at the schematics and wire up something (that's what we did initially). You can also order the PCB we used to make our adapters through BatchPCB:

You can also make the PCB for this adapter on your own using these Gerber files:

You're going to need the following components from DigiKey:

The schematics and notes for the adapter can be found here:


The schematics, notes and BOM for the HappyGem can be downloaded here:
BOM on Google Docs

We have some extra HappyGem PCBs, so if you want to make your own HappyGems we can send you some PCBs for $5 per PCB and $15 shipping. Just send us a message if you want one.

We're also releasing the schematics for the original prototype (of which only 10 were made). There's some serious issues with this design, so don't try to build it. We provide it for educational purposes:

The software on GitHub probably does not work with the prototypes, but it shouldn't take too much tweaking to get it to work.


If you've got any questions or just want some general help to get started, send an e-mail to skyfex@gmail.com. We don't have a simple "getting started" guide yet, but we'd be happy to help out if any of you need help hacking the HappyGem.

Show Me!

This video was a status update for our Kickstarter, and shows of the LEDs in action.

These are pictures of the HappyGems that we brought to Burning Man and our production setup.

These are pictures of the first prototypes, which has a slighly different design to the final version we brought to Burning Man.

The following are pictures from the Norwegian Game Awards Kick-off in January 2012. It was the first ever test of the HappyGem, and it was universally loved by the ones who tried it.