Four Kettering students are running a Kickstarter campaign to fund their Ion lamp. While developing the device the students tried to answer the question "what if light could speak?"
The Ion consists of a microphone, audio processors, capacitive touch sensor, 40 tri-color LEDs and a wireless Bluetooth low energy chip. Several base moods come pre-installed on the Ion, from Digital Rain to Flame to Lava. The Rave mode is built to detect the speed of the kick drum from a musical selection and then output a number-crunched lightshow.
Ion can be controlled from the touch sensor in the top cap, cycling through a solid light and then three different user-chosen functions. A no frills app is the intended control method, currently being developed on iOS and Android platforms. Mood creation, mood shuffle, power conservation, weather and time, and firmware updates are being developed.
lava, the company founded by Billy Lindeman and three other students, originally ran a Kickstarter campaign for its Ember and Torch Arduino control mechanism. While demonstrating the control at Social Media Day Detroit 2013 the team found that customers were fascinated not by the controller but by the pulsing LED lamp that was being controlled.
The Ion has already blown past its funding goals within the first week of its campaign. The $20,000 sought for tooling and producing the first batch of lamps is already secure. Lamps are priced at $199 and expected to ship to US destinations in August 2014.
Controlling a lamp through the app can be simulated through the company's website, tryion.lava.io - I spent five minutes playing with the lamp and learning its simple controls, and the different variations are incredible. The weather settings are amazing too, in terms of the LED animation and how easily the moving lights can convey different concepts. The gif files on the Kickstarter page need to be seen to fully absorb the ingenuity.
Flint, Michigan is often maligned in the press but there's an entrepreneurial spirit growing in the community and a sense that things are changing for the better. We're not even the most dangerous city in the United States anymore, as of February 2014.
Machining, anodizing, material sourcing and assembly are all being done locally in Michigan, further supporting the region's resurgence. These students are light years ahead of my abilities while doing Mechanical Engineering undergraduate work at Kettering, and it will be exciting to see what they do next. This twenty first century lava lamp is going to be difficult to top.