LavaAMP Spectrum Analzyer


Is your dusty Lava Lamp just not cool enough anymore? What if you could make it bubble to the music? [Christian] and [Eric] managed to do just that.

No, they aren’t regular Lava Lamps. In fact, they look like oversize jam jars, but the video of them in action is pretty cool! They designed and built this system for the UIST 2013 Student Innovation Contest, and while there isn’t too much information on the actual build, the contest required everyone to use the exact same kit. The kit consists of 8 aquarium pumps, a PumpSpark controller board, assorted tubing and fittings and an optically-isolated serial interface for use with an Arduino or another kind of microcontroller. From there, it’s pretty easy to guess the rest — analyzing the audio, and timing the pumps according to the various levels.

Other competition entries of note include an awesome game of WaterPong, a Water Bottle Bagpipe, and even an Xbox H2O!

Stick around after the break to see the LavaAMP bubble to the bass.

15 thoughts on “LavaAMP Spectrum Analzyer

  1. Looks like the colours are getting churned up into a “mix”. Gentle piston pumps should be used perhaps. Back-light it up. Cool retro stereo cabinet. Dimpled jars not so cool.

  2. Here’s Christian from the team. Thanks for your comments!

    I guess the word “equalizer” popped up inadvertently in the mix. Anyway, we initially wanted to design it that way (with 3-bin Bark- or Mel-Frequency Cepstrum Coefficients). Since it had to be presented in a crowded noisy venue against 30-ish other designs, we opted for more eye/ear catching beat detection, using onset detection from aubio ( in PureData.

    We hacked it in about two weeks, part-time. Lasse spotted it right: we used juice bottles, and from the actual brand cited. Dimpled since we cut the necks to fit in the pumps and stuck it again together disgracefully :). It’s not easy to find containers in which the pumps could fit, and which could fit it the repurposed turntable. We would have preferred glassware for sure. Regarding lightning that is indeed lacking, I’d have opted for gooseneck lamps behind each bottle, oblique like the lid, USB-powered for instance. Even if we used the lowest impulse possible from the kit, vegetable oil and inked water would eventually mix up. Another solution to try: repurposing actual lava lamps, but making sure the wax wouldn’t pass trough the pumps (cold or hot).

    Paul Dietz, from Microsoft Research, the creator of the PumpSpark kit, announced at the conference it would be sold on SparkFun, part of sales reused for funding the future Student Innovation Contests.

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