DIY Touch Lights Let You Send People Your Mood Across The Globe

Electrical engineer and musician John Harrison was looking for a way to communicate with distant friends and relatives in a more personal way, without using Facebook, email or other such service. He came up with the idea of “Filimins” — touch-sensitive, wireless lights that can be set to a colour and all other connected lights, no matter their location, will change to that colour.

Images: John Harrison

Harrison has a Kickstarter going to commercialise the idea, but over on Instructables, he’s provided a detailed tutorial on how you can build your own.

Seeing as the physical shape of the lights can be whatever you like, we’ll focus on the nitty-gritty components required:

  • Spark Core ($US39 each. You need one for each light)
  • One Raspberry Pi (any model) with SD card ethernet cable and power. (You can substitute any Linux server)
  • Adafruit 16 Neopixel Ring ($US10 each. You need one for each light)
  • Conductive paint. (One light can use as much as 10ml of paint. I know it’s expensive but I tried various DIY conductive paint recipes but could find nothing that works like the real thing.)
  • Wire. A 4-wire-strip ripped off ribbon cable from an old computer works great.
  • 10 MOhm resistor.
  • High quality cell phone charger power supply. Cheaper off-brand power supplies do not work because the power is not clean enough for the touch sensing. Simple filtering with a capacitor does not fix this. You can buy name brand units (Samsung, Apple, LG, etc.) Alternatively, I picked up used brand-name chargers from the thrift store for $0.99 each and they work great.

The process involves some soldering to put the electronics together, while code is provided by Harrison to get everything functioning as expected. A server handles communication between the lights, so it’s not entirely fire-and-forget: someone will need to “host” them for the changing colours to work.

I’m sure someone could write a phone app that does something similar, but I think it’d lack the inventiveness and tactile experience the physical lights provide.

Networked RGB Wi-Fi Decorative Touch Lights [Instructables]

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