About this project
HypnoLights, beautiful animated string lights
Hello, we're Chris Lomont and Gene Foulk, creators of Hypnocube (a 3D electronic art light, http://www.hypnocube.com/). This time we've made a beautiful animated string light with many uses including holidays and unique lighting.
Most of our time is spent making artistic lighting gadgets, but we often do shorter projects (or experiments involving high voltage, fire, or explosions). For this project we wanted to take the standard string lighting idea and expand it into a much more beautiful, flowing visualization project, while keeping it as cheap as possible to get to market.
Introducing the HypnoLight
The HypnoLight is a 12’ strand of 50 LED lights, which you just plug in and it plays artistic lighting sequences automatically. The HypnoLight contains over 30 visualizations, each randomized to create never repeating sequences, with multiple transitions flowing smoothly between them. If you leave one on forever, it will not repeat during the lifetime of the universe.
To make them nicer for various uses, we implemented 19 user-selectable themes, which change the colors, timing, and visualizations on the fly. The themes are
- Default: all colors, pleasant timing
- Seven holidays: Christmas, Thanksgiving, Halloween, July 4th, Easter, St. Patricks, and Valentine’s Day
- Eight color themes: Red, Magenta, Blue, Cyan, Green, Yellow, Purple, Orange
Three special themes:
- Slow (same as default, just slower),
- Nightlight (dim, slow),
- Hue Cycle (single hue, slowly changing, for environment lighting)
Here are some sample visualizations on eight of our prototype HypnoLights.
Each HypnoLight comes with a 100-240v power supply, an image generation/clicker module, and a twelve foot long 50 LED light strand.
HypnoLights can be used both indoors and outdoors.
Some more details and an initial user manual can be found at our upcoming product page http://hypnocube.com/products/hypnolight/hypnolight/
We’ve been working on this project for over a year alongside other projects. Initial prototyping was done using our custom HypnoLSD modules, which allowed us to get code running early. While developing hardware to handle the final product, we used this module to test different strand lengths, LED bulb styles, strands from multiple manufacturers, and indoor only versus all weather strands, among other parameters. The result is we found a combination that we think looks good and results in a price point we wanted to hit.
While developing the software (which resulted in about 20,000 lines of C code and a few hundred of assembly), we also developed a custom PCB to minimize the final retail cost by being able to control the exact size and parts needed. These PCBs evolved as the design requirements changed under testing and discussion between us and with some input from friends.
For example, the first prototypes didn’t have a button (we used a tricky power cycling method to make changes), and the first ones were not designed to stay synced. After playing with them, we realized a looping, synchronized version would look cooler, and we also wanted an easier method to control them.
Making all the visualizations loop (so we can put the strand end to end) did not take too much work, except for a few that needed to be carefully analyzed to make sure various transcendental functions had carefully chosen periods so the ends would always match. Adding a clicker button added a little cost, but we think the ease of use improvements over the older power cycling tricks vastly outweigh this cost.
Testing showed that manufacturing variations caused syncing to be terrible, so we needed to add active or some form of passive synching. After some experimentation, we decided active synching would add more cost than we felt was acceptable, so we settled on making the passive method more accurate; we added a crystal oscillator instead of using default ones built in the CPU. This added almost zero cost, and testing shows it works very well for the use cases we wanted.
The last feature we added was the ability to connect them in series, making it easier to put them on houses or trees or other places where running more and more power wires makes it a hassle. Although only two can be put in series before voltage drops make the lights dim, it does allow cutting in half the number of power wires needed for larger installations.
All of this required multiple round trip design and manufacturing cycles. A few times we thought we had what we wanted, obtained prototypes, and decided we wanted a small tweak or two before starting larger scale production.
The final version is the prototypes we recently obtained to do one last sanity check, and these are the ones shown in this video. We finally have no reservations about the beauty and quality of the HypnoLight. After this Kickstarter, our first large scale batch will be like these, except all wires will be black, making them even slightly better!
And that is the story of the HypnoLight.
We’re doing this Kickstarter to gauge interest in the product, to get any last minute feedback on the product, and to help offset the cost of the first batch. In order to get the HypnoLight per-item cost low enough for the consumer market, we need to purchase a fairly large batch of HypnoLights.
HypnoLight all the things!
For this Kickstarter, we’re offering HypnoLights in several number/price combinations, with an early bird special for the first backers, who get the best per item price. Due to retailers requiring their own markup, once we start selling HypnoLights in retail channels, we will not likely be able to sell them this cheaply again.
Each shipped item requires either US or foreign shipping. Foreign backers will need to get an adapter to convert the US power plug to a local format. Fortunately, the adapter can handle 100-240v already, so a voltage converter should not be needed for anywhere of which we’re aware.
Shipping for each reward is listed in each reward level.
At the end of the Kickstarter, we will manufacture the HypnoLights. Based on past experience with our manufacturer for other products, we expect that it will take two months for the HypnoLights to reach us, at which point we will ship US based ones via FedEx and international ones via the post office. US based deliveries usually take 1 week, but we’re scheduling 1-3 weeks of slack to give us plenty of cushion. Foreign orders should take a few weeks to a month, depending on customs offices.
We have years of experience shipping goods all over the world from selling Hypnocubes and other gadgets. So hopefully this part will be error free!
Thanks for taking the time to browse our project. Feel free to contact us with any questions, and we'll answer you as quickly as possible.
Risks and challenges
The risk in this project is very low.
We have already obtained final prototypes from the manufacturer, and have space for receiving the shipped goods before we send them out to backers. We estimated shipping costs to various places in the world, added in required Kickstarter and Amazon fees, and obtained prices we think are very good for the product we’re delivering. We estimated time to order, for them to deliver, and to ship them to you. From past work shipping products directly to consumers all over the world, we’re confident there is almost no risk in this project.
The only risk is if there is such a massive demand that we will have trouble using our current supply chain to deliver, but that is a problem we're willing to solve!Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
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