Autonomous Lighting with Intelligence

myra_light_01_29

Getting into home automation usually starts with lighting, like hacking your lights to automatically turn on when motion is detected, timer controls, or even tying everything into an app on your smart phone. [Ken] took things to a completely different level, by giving his lighting intelligence.

The system is called ‘Myra’, and it works by detecting what you’re doing in the room, and based on this, robotic lights will optimally adjust to the activity. For example, if you’re walking through the room, the system will attempt to illuminate your path as you walk. Other activities are detected as well, like reading a book, watching TV, or just standing still.

At the heart of the ‘Myra’ system is an RGBD Sensor (Microsoft Kinect/Asus Xtion). The space in the room is processed by a PC running an application to determine the current ‘activity’. Wireless robotic lights are strategically placed around the room; each with a 2-servo system and standalone Arduino. The PC sends out commands to each light with an angle for the two axis and the intensity of the light. The lights receive this command wirelessly via a 315MHz receiver, and the Arduino then ‘aims’ the beam according to the command.

This isn’t the first time we’ve seen [Ken’s] work; a couple of years ago we saw his extremely unique ‘real life’ weather display.  The ‘Myra’ system is still a work in progress, so we can’t wait to see how it all ends up.  Be sure to check out the video after the break for a demo of the system.

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TP-Link router turned into a DALI automated lighting controller

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The members of Shackspace continue to put up impressive hacks based around the tiny TP-Link routers. This time around [Timm] has shoehorned a DALI controller inside the router case. This is a protocol we don’t remember hearing about before. The Digital Addressable Lighting Interface is a control network for commercial lighting. That way people responsible for taking care of large buildings can shut off all the lights at night (to name just one use). The new room at Shackspace has this style of controllers in its lights.

The two brown wires coming into the router make up the data bus for the DALI system. It connects to the add-on PCB which uses an Atmel AT90PWM316 microcontroller. The chip is specifically designed for DALI networks which made the rest of the project quite easy. It talks to the lights, the router talks to it, bob’s your uncle, and you’ve got network controlled lighting. Get this in a big enough building and you can play some Tetris.

In case you were wondering. Yes, this project has already been added to their TP-Link firmware generator.

Fiber optic chandelier with wireless controls

After seeing a cool fiberoptic chandelier on Ebay for over $1,000, [Apex Logic] figured he could build one himself that would not only be cheaper, but have more features. Some of the features he was after were for it to be wirelessly controlled, have the ability for full RGB control, and of course to have a custom look. He pulled it off quite nicely as you can see in the video below. He has a wireless controller with 3 sliders representing RGB that you can catch a glimpse of in the second video below.

His page with the build details and the code seems to have suffered some ill fate this morning. Here it is, for when it returns.

[via Adafruit]

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Giving old appliances a second life with simple tweaks

blender-light

Cruising estate sales can be a total crapshoot – sometimes you find a goldmine, other times nothing but junk. [John Ownby] recently found a sleek-looking old blender at such a sale and decided to take it home. The chrome plated base and fluted glass immediately caught his eye, but he didn’t buy the blender so he could make mediocre frozen drinks – he wanted a lamp instead.

The conversion was fairly simple, requiring him to gut the machine of its moving parts including the motor and blades, replacing them with a small incandescent candelabra base. While his modifications themselves are not groundbreaking, taking them a step further would make for some really cool (and functional) retro house fixtures.

Indulge me for a moment, if you will, and imagine swapping out the simple incandescent bulb for some LED strips or even EL wire. Replace the blender’s cap with a small speaker, and you can use several of these together as retro-looking surround satellites.

We can definitely get behind his reuse of the blender, which would have otherwise likely ended up in a landfill. It’s great to see solid, durable appliances given a second life, even in ways which were never intended. Have you rescued anything from the trash heap like [John], or do you have other ideas for your fellow hackers who might come across similar goods? Let us know in the comments.

Happy Late Lit Acrylic Valentines Day

Although [Danman] was right on time with his home-hacked Valentines day gift, this article comes to you a little late. With the message on the heart changed, however, it could be a perfect “Sorry I forgot Valentines Day again” gift, so it may still be useful.

The concept isn’t that complicated, simply a strip of LED lights around a piece of acrylic. A battery holder and switch rounds out this build. It’s a neat way to light things up, but what we thought was especially interesting was the way it was engraved and cut out with a minimum of traditional tools.

Sure, [Danman] had access to a bandsaw, but as for actually engraving the outline he used a modified electric toothbrush! We’d love to see that build written up. If that wasn’t enough, the lettering was “ghetto blasted”, as he puts it, using a compressed air nozzle, a pen tube, and a styrofoam cup full of ceramic dust! Macgyver would be proud!

Tool box light dimmer helps out a friend, offers up design tips

toolbox-lighting

[miceuz] has a friend that works as a theatre technician, and in the course of his job he often needs to jigger with various stage components while shows are in progress. As you can imagine, the lighting situation is far from ideal, so he asked [miceuz] to build him an adjustable lighting solution for his tool box.

The circuit itself is relatively straightforward, using an ATMega88 to provide the PWM required for dimming and color control. Input is taken from three different sources, a rotary encoder for color selection, a pot for brightness control, and a button to turn the light strip on and off.

[miceuz] says that while project came together pretty easily, it still presented some issues along the way which provide some useful design reminders for beginners (and some veterans) alike.

First and foremost: debounce, debounce, debounce. [miceuz] forgot this mantra and made a mad dash to add capacitors to his design after etching the PCB to ensure that his inputs were not bouncing all over the place. He also noted that one should always be sure to read the ADCL before the ADCH register when decoding ADC data. His final observation is that using thick traces is the best policy whenever possible – he ran into a lot of issues with traces detaching during assembly, which he had to rework with wire and solder.

In the end, his friend was happy with the result, and [miceuz] is a better hacker for having worked through his issues. What sorts of important/useful lessons have you learned through the course of your projects? Be sure to share them with us in the comments.

Controlling Dioder light strips wirelessly

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[SeBsZ] does a lot of work in home automation, using Xbee modules, LEDs, and other home lighting systems. Naturally, people look to him for help with different electronics projects, but one thing he has been asked time and time again is if he can make a simple mood lighting solution that can be easily installed.

He has always been interested in playing around with RGB LEDs, but he wasn’t looking to reinvent the wheel with this project. Instead he based his work off the Ikea Dioder product, an off-the-shelf set of adjustable LED strips. As we’ve seen before, the control module for these LEDs leaves a bit to be desired, so he removed the Dioder’s onboard PIC and wired up a controller of his own. His “Universal IO Board” uses an Atmega88 for control and has all the pins required to attach an Xbee wireless module. With everything wired up, he now has full wireless control of the Dioder light strips, without a ton of fuss.

Although he’s selling a few different hardware kits, the schematics for his IO board are freely available on his site, should you want to make your own. The only thing that we didn’t see was the code for the Atmega, but we’re guessing he has that posted somewhere as well.