Friday, May 24, 2013

Quick Build Mood Lamp with Remote Control

While not a robot this nifty project employs the kind of components and resourcefulness that can be very useful when converting your own ideas into reality.  

Why build a remote controlled, tabletop, mood lamp that can produce over 16 million vibrant colors?
Why not?

It might be the ideal conversation piece for that table that needs just one more decoration.

The lamp was assembled from a ceiling mounted lighting fixture, a 9 volt battery, and just two electronic components from ThingM's BlinkM line of products.

It consists of a single BlinkM RGB module slotted onto the top socket of a FreeM device. These mated modules are then placed on top of a 9 volt battery which supplies power.

The FreeM conveniently includes a 9 volt battery connector built into the bottom of the board and this makes the electrical work quite easy. The BlinkM, FreeM, and the battery all fit snugly together without requiring any soldering.

As often happens with scientific experiments, art projects, and other sorts of creative endeavors, a very delightful feature arose quite unexpectedly. These welcome surprises are often called "emergent properties" and tend to result more from the inherent properties of the particular materials chosen for the implementation than from anything described in the original design.

For instance, the image to the right shows the lamp set to produce a solid "blueish" output. The expected outcome was to light the globe one specific color. However, the result was a wonderfully natural blending of blue and green that combined to generate something which strongly resembles a gas planet.

The magic that makes this happen arises due to the combined properties of the translucent glass globe and the design of the BlinkM. The globe has inherent imperfections which go largely unnoticed when used for its intended purpose attached to the ceiling of a closet or hallway. Meanwhile, the BlinkM uses three very tiny LEDs arranged in a triangular fashion.

Because these individual LEDs are slightly offset from one another, they generate slightly offset brightness curves. These offset light curves combine with the imperfections in the diffusing layer of the glass and produce the beautifully organic designs.

The BlinkM generates 24 bit color at a reasonably bright 8,000 mcd while the FreeM acts as both a voltage regulator and an IR receiver. Lighting effects can be controlled by using nearly any "Sony-style" TV remote control. The BlinkM houses and on-board micro-controller and ships with a default set of operating modes which can be activated via the number keys on the remote control unit. Brightness can be controlled using the volume keys. The scripts which define the operating modes can be altered by an end user who has a basic familiarity working with micro-controllers  The module can also accept "live" serial commands via its I2C pins (more on that in a future post).

Everything is tucked away inside of a standard, ceiling mounted, lighting fixture that has had its 120 volt parts replaced with the BlinkM/FreeM/battery combo and then turned upside down so it sits as a tabletop globe. Enjoy!

See the product line's datasheet for more information about the components:

I purchased my BlinkM components from

Thank you for visiting.

Build something! You can do it!

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