Hackaday Prize Entry: Theia IoT light-switch

There are it seems no wireless-enabled light switches available in the standard form factor of a UK light switch. At least, that was the experience of [loldavid6], when he decided he needed one. Also, none of the switches he could find were open-source, or easy to integrate with. So he set out to design his own, and the Theia IoT light switch is the result.

In adapting a standard light switch, he was anxious that his device would not depend on the position of the switch for its operation. Therefore he had to ensure that the switch became merely an input to whichever board he designed, rather than controlling the mains power. He settled upon the ESP8266 wireless-enabled microcontroller as the brains of the unit, with a relay doing the mains switching. He first considered using an LNK304 off-line switching PSU chip to derive his low voltages, but later moved to an off-the-shelf switch-mode board.

So far two prototype designs have been completed, one for each power supply option. Boards have been ordered, and he’s now in the interminable waiting period for international postage. All the KiCad and other files are available for download o the project’s hackaday.io page, so you can have a look for yourselves if you are so inclined.

You might ask why another IoT light switch might be needed. But even though they are now available and inexpensive, there is still a gap for a board that is open, and more importantly does not rely on someone else’s cloud backend. Plus, of course, this board can be used for more than lighting.

Light bulb image: Осадчая Екатерина (Own work) [CC BY-SA 4.0], via Wikimedia Commons.

Artificial Skylight Brings Sunlight To Any Room

Humans aren’t supposed to be cooped up indoors all day, but who wants to be bothered by UV rays, insects, allergens, traffic, physical activity, and other people? On the other hand, a gloomy living space generally inhibits productivity — if not making it difficult to find what you’re looking for. So, if you’re looking to illuminate any room in your place, and you have the cash and the patience to wait for its widespread release, CoeLux is a skylight that needs no sky or sun — not that you’ll be able to tell the difference.

The Italian developers [CoeLux Srl] are perhaps wisely remaining tight-lipped on how the effect is achieved, but confirm that nanoparticles in the skylight mimic the effect of atmospheric fluctuations, compressing that vast deep blue into a few milimetres while maintaining the perception of infinite depth.

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Finding ESP8266 Inside Big-Box Store IoT Plugs

When we buy new shiny toys, we usually open them up to at least have a look. [Scott Gibson] does the same, apparently. He found an ESP8266 module inside the EcoPlug brand WiFi-controlled wall switches.

The original device was intended to be controlled by a (crappy) app. He sniffed the UDP packets enough to send the on-off signals to an unmodified device, but where’s the fun in that? [Scott] gave it an upgrade by replacing the ESP8266’s firmware with his own and now he’s got a much more capable remote switch, one that speaks MQTT like the rest of his home automation system.

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How To Drill A Curved Hole

Next time you’re renovating and need to run some cables around corners in you walls, save yourself some frustration by building [izzy swan]’s corner drilling rig. It’s something akin to a custom tunnel boring machine but on a small scale.

drill-a-curved-holeStarting with a piece of steel, [izzy] traced and cut out a 90 degree curve with an attached arm that will allow it to rotate from a central block. He then grabs a random drill bit and attaches it to a flex shaft which is secured to the leading point of the steel curve. To complete the handy setup the entire rig is bolted to a block that will clamp over the corner stock.

As it stands, it takes some elbow grease to get the drill through, but it’s not a purpose built setup. On a second demonstration, the flex shaft breaks, but the idea is there. Now, [izzy] advises that this is most easily accomplished when re-framing walls with no drywall obstructing your drill, but the concept for this rig could nonetheless prove handy for welding, grinding, and so forth along any angled curve.

If instead you want to push your carpentry skills to their limits, build a wooden Vespa.

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An ESP8266 in Every Light Switch and Outlet

[Hristo Borisov] shows us his clever home automation project, a nicely packaged WiFi switchable wall socket. The ESP8266 has continuously proven itself to be a home automation panacea. Since the ESP8266 is practically a given at this point, the bragging rights have switched over to the skill with which the solution is implemented. By that metric, [Hristo]’s solution is pretty dang nice.

esp8266-smart-lightswitchIt’s all based around a simple board. An encapsulated power supply converts the 220V offered by the Bulgarian power authorities into two rails of 3.3V and 5V respectively. The 3.3V is used for an ESP8266 whose primary concern is the control of a triac and an RGB LED. The 5V is optional if the user decides to add a shield that needs it. That’s right, your light switches will now have their own shields that decide the complexity of the device.

The core module seen to the right contains the actual board. All it needs is AC on one side and something to switch or control on the other The enclosure is not shown (only the lid with the shield connectors is seen) but can be printed in a form factor that includes a cord to plug into an outlet, or with a metal flange to attach to an electrical box in the wall. The modules that mate with the core are also nicely packaged in a 3D printed shield. For example, to convert a lamp to wireless control, you use a shield with a power socket on it. To convert a light switch, use the control module that has a box flange and then any number of custom switch and display shields can be hot swapped on it.

It’s all controllable from command line, webpage, and even an iOS app; all of it is available on his GitHub. We’d love to hear your take on safety, modularity, and overall system design. We think [Hristo] has built a better light switch!

Chair Dances Like No One Is Watching

Although it might be more accurate to say that this chair dances because no one is watching, the result is still a clever project that [Igor], a maker-in-residence at the National Museum of Decorative Arts and Design in Norway, created recently. Blurring the lines between art, hack, and the ghosts from Super Mario, this chair uses an impressive array of features to “dance”, but only if no one is looking at it.

In order to get the chair to appear to dance, [Igor] added servo motors in all four legs to allow them to bend. A small non-moving dowel was placed on the inside of the leg to keep the chair from falling over during all of the action. It’s small enough that it’s not immediately noticeable from a distance, which helps maintain the illusion of a dancing chair.

From there, a Raspberry Pi 3 serves as the control center for the chair. It’s programmed in Python and runs OpenCV for face detection and uses pigpio for controlling the leg servos. There’s also a web interface for watching the camera’s output and viewing its facial recognition abilities. The web interface also allows a user to debug the program. [Igor]’s chair can process up to 3 frames per second at 800×600 pixels.

Be sure to check out the video after the break to see the chair in action. It’s an interesting piece of art, and if those dowels can support the weight of a person it would be a great addition to any home as well. If it’s not enough chair for you, though, there are some other more dangerous options out there.

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Tiny House Forecasts Weather

Before the information age, it wasn’t quite as easy to glean information about the weather. Sure, there were thermometers and barometers and rhymes about the sky, but if you lived in or near Germany back then you might have also had access to something called a “weather house” which could help predict rain. [Moritz] aka [Thinksilicon] found one of these antequated devices laying around, and went about modernizing it. (Google Translate from German)

A traditional weather house is essentially a hygrometer housed in an intricate piece of artwork. Two figures, typically a man and woman, are balanced on a platform that is suspended in the middle by a small section of horsehair. When the humidity is low, the hair tightens up and turns the platform one way, and when humidity is high — suggesting rain is coming — it turns the other way. When the man comes out of the house, it predicts rainfall.

To get the weather house upgraded, [Moritz] outfitted the front with an OLED display which replaced the traditional thermometer. Instead of using horsehair to spin the figures he installed a small servo on the platform. The entire house is controlled by an ESP8266 which pulls data from the Open Weather API and spins the figures based on the information it receives.

Much like unique clocks, we enjoy interesting weather indicating/forecasting builds. This one’s right up there with using squirrels to predict the weather, or having a small weather-recreation right on your bookshelf.