Our lives are shaped by flows of information. Even on a regular day, we rely on incoming email, text messages, social networks, news articles, weather, sports, traffic, and more to inform our choices. To access this information, we usually turn to a computer or smartphone. The Visualight aims to make this simpler. The Visualight is a Wi-Fi enabled light bulb that can display data as colored light. By representing information as colored light, a simple change in your ambient environment brings new information to your awareness. As a result, you know what you're looking for just by looking up -- no thumbing through alert messages or loading webpages cluttered with ads.
New Reward: Limited Edition 8-Bit Visualight
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Out of the box, the Visualight system connects to datafeeds from Twitter, Gmail, Facebook, Weather Underground, and New York City’s MTA (subway and buses).
NEW DATA SOURCES:
COSM, NOAA Tide Predictions and NextBus
The Visualight is fully customizable. You decide what each color should indicate. Waiting for an important email from a friend? Setup Visualight to turn green when an email from a specific address arrives in your inbox. Hate it when you get to the subway station only to find out your train has scheduled construction delays? Select your train line on the Visualight website so that your bulb will turn red if there are delays. Addicted to Facebook? Never miss a friend request! Have Visualight turn purple to ensure you get your fix. Always forget to grab your umbrella? Put a Visualight in the hall and have it turn blue when the forecast calls for rain. By adjusting the Red, Green, and Blue values from 0 - 255, you can create any color you imagine.
The Visualight can also be turned on and off by datafeeds, or via a smartphone, tablet, or computer. Have an important Twitter campaign running? Configure the Visualight to blink for certain Twitter interactions. Want to control your home lighting remotely? No problem. Load up the Visualight web app on your smartphone to turn it off, dim it down, or change the colors.
When there are no alerts, the Visualight glows white and acts just like any other lightbulb. The Visualight works in any standard light fixture for “clutter-free” geekery. The DIY version can be plugged directly into any US-style outlet.
Visualight can visualize your data too. To expand beyond the built-in examples, developers can add in other data sources through our API. The Visualight is open source and the code will be posted to Github.
The video above shows that each Visualight can display a full range of Red, Green, and Blue and every shade in between -- millions of individual shades you can choose from.
Setting up a Visualight is simple. First, create an account on the Visualight website. Second, turn on your bulb. By default each bulb creates its own Wi-Fi network, called an “ad-hoc” network. Third, connect any device to this network and load a webpage hosted on the bulb. Enter your home Wi-Fi network information and click the “configure” button. The bulb will then connect to your network and our servers. A reset button can be used to reconfigure the bulb at any time.
GEEK OUT WARNING: Visualight, in its current prototype, uses a ATmega328 microcontroller. Future versions will use the ATmega32U4. The Wi-Fi module is the Roving Networks RN-171. The Visualight bulb and LED strip controller will be re-programmable using a micro USB cable. For the Visualight bulb, we are planning on using one of many currently available aluminium LED bulb bodies. This enables us to source the bodies directly without having to produce our own parts. Examples below:
Risks and challenges
One of the biggest challenges of this project will be sorting out the manufacturing of the Visualight. Over the past two summers I spent a combined seven weeks in Beijing and Shanghai sourcing parts and talking with manufacturers. Final deals have yet to be arranged as quantities are dependent on the success of this campaign. There is even the possibility of having some of the components manufactured here in Brooklyn as the number of small-scale electronics companies grows.
Technically, connecting devices to Wi-Fi is difficult because of the complicated protocol. Recent W-Fi hardware advances have made this project possible. As part of a growing community of technologists in the New York area, I have access to a vast information network that helps reduce the risks of running into design problems with this system. My background in physical computing, and my efforts to communicate environmental information seamlessly to the general public, has led me to work with this technology for the past two years. In this way, Visualight is a component of my MFA thesis work on broader water quality monitoring in the New York Harbor. See http://dontflush.me for more details.Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
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