Fueled By Jealousy, This Smart Lamp Really Shines

As a lover of lava lamps, [Julian Butler] knew when he saw a coworker’s modern LED incarnation of the classic piece of illuminated decor that he had to have one for himself. The only problem was that the Kickstarter for it had long since ended, and they were no longer available. So he did what any good hacker would do: he studied it closely, took a bunch of notes, and built his own version that ended up being even better than the original.

In the three part series on his blog, [Julian] takes us through the design and construction of his take on the Ion Mood Light, which raised over $72,000 back in 2014. The details in the Kickstarter campaign plus his own first-hand observations of the device were enough to give him the high-level summary: the device has a core of RGB LEDs behind a diffuser, and uses some software trickery to pulse out some pleasing effects and patterns. He wasn’t concerned about the Bluetooth or the smartphone application, so all he really needed to do was put some NeoPixel LEDs inside a glass cylinder and he’d be done. Of course, it always sounds easy…

The actual journey to get there, as you might have guessed from the three part series, took awhile. Sourcing the LEDs was easy enough, and using a Fadecandy controller made getting the LEDs to blink out some cool patterns fairly straightforward. But it took [Julian] a bit of experimentation and a few trips to the crafts store before he found a material which would diffuse the LEDs enough for his tastes. Though in the end, he thinks the multiple layers of acrylic he ended up going with actually do a better job of blending the light from the individual LEDs than in the original Ion.

Using the Fadecandy made it easy to drive the LEDs, but he still needed something to provide it with the commands. To that end, he added a decorative base to his LED column that hides a Raspberry Pi and all the lamp’s associated electronics. This includes a microphone which gives his lamp the same sort of sound reactive features that made the Ion so popular. The base does make his lamp a bit bulkier than the original version, but the metallic mesh construction is attractive enough the overall look works.

Of course, you might be wondering how [Julian] got the LEDs to react to sound, or do any of the other gorgeous effects shown off in the video after the break. The software which makes this possible makes up the third and final post in the series, and is really a whole project in itself. The short version of the story is that he used Python and Processing to do real-time computational fluid dynamics, but not before making the necessary adjustments to speed up the simulation on ARM hardware. You know, normal lamp stuff.

This isn’t the first time we’ve seen projects using the Fadecandy board. From creating a Tron inspired desk to building the 5,760 LED “Space Tunnel”, it looks like a great choice if you’ve got a problem that can be solved by the application of a ridiculous number of LEDS.

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The Grooviest Random Number Generator Ever

Cloudflare is one of those Internet companies you use all the time, but don’t usually know it. Big websites you visit use Cloudflare to shore up their defenses against denial of service attacks. The company needed some truly random numbers for its security solutions, so it turned to some groovy old tech: lava lamps. In their office is a wall of 100 lava lamps monitored by cameras. The reaction of the lamps is unpredictable, and this allows them to generate really random numbers. [Joshua], a Cloudflare employee, talks about the technical details of the system in a recent blog post.

You might think this is a new and novel idea, but it turns out the LavaRnd (or maybe it is LavaRand — there’s some dispute if you read the comments below) system has been around for a while. In fact, we covered it way back in 2005. Silicon Graphics patented the system in 1996.

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LavaAMP Spectrum Analzyer

lavaamp

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.

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Lava lamp centrifuge

Like many projects, this one started with a harmless question. “Will lava lamps work in a high-gravity environment such as Jupiter?”. Well, as it turns out, this harmless question was not so easily answered. The only real solution was to test and prove for sure. To do this, [Neil Fraser] built a centrifuge in his living room. At 10 feet across and roughly 50 kilograms, this is no small toy. The end with the lava lamp is set to pivot, so at a stand still, it is positioned vertically and at full speed it is positioned horizontally. The whole process is recorded on video for proof. So, does a lava lamp work in high gravity? Watch the video or read the article to find out.

[via Makezine]