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Forgive any potential neologisms, but I would like to acquire a light that can, say, display 64-256 different shades of color based off of a digital numerical input signal? It can be a usb light, but I want to control it from within a ruby interpreted environment if at all possible. Hoping there is some light that will accept key => value input for a range of colors using just numbers as input.

I imagine there might be one that takes html color codes..

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All I've heard of is RGB LEDs which are a red, a green, and a blue LED in one package.

Using PWM you can give each colour 256 different intensities to make the RGB LED appear to be any colour you want.

Most RGB LEDs are the size of stamdard LEDs but with 4 pins rather than the standard 2.

You can get LEDs encapsulated with a PWM driver chip (such as the WS2812B etc.). They are driven by a serial protocol (not serial in the sense of RS232). They are rather harder to drive from a PC.

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From the context, I am assuming you were hoping to find a small discrete LED device to connect to your Pi. As @joan mentioned, you can buy discrete RGB LEDs and you get color from them by careful pulse-width-modification techniques. It's possible, but that doesn't sound like what you want.

There are "light strips" available that operate exactly as you describe -- AdaFruit sells at least one, for example, that's wired with RGB LEDs and includes an embedded controller so you connect it to your Pi and communicate the colors using software libraries for the Pi supplied by AdaFruit. See http://www.adafruit.com/product/306

I happen to have a colorful LED device that screws into a standard light socket and the colors it produces are controlled using an infrared remote control. It's fairly simple technically to connect an IR LED to your Pi and use the lirc package to replicate the serial signals produced by the remote and control that sort of device. Here's a similar one available on Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/E-Goal-Color-Changing-Light-Remote/dp/B003MB6UEO

Finally, if you are ultimately looking to produce LOTS of light output, yet another option to consider would be to buy a lighting device designed for stage lighting using the DMX protocol. See https://wiki.openlighting.org/index.php/Open_Lighting_Project or search your favorite search engine for "Raspberry Pi DMX."

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You can also manipulate the color hues and their light by using Arudino. I did a project like this one here last year and it worked fine by controlling the RGB LEDs.

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    I changed you answer into an affirmative sentence. Answers which sound like questions may get removed, because there are many people who mistake this Q&A site for a blog and ask their own questions in the "answer" field. – Dmitry Grigoryev Nov 18 '16 at 8:31

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