Not much about electric lighting has changed in the last140 years.
Incandescent lights have been outlawed, halogens, compact fluorescents and LEDs have taken their place, but still the most exciting thing you can do with an electric light is dim it.
Mark Pesce, an inventor and futurist, wants to change all that. In conjunction with some talented partners, he’s built a light that’s not only dimmable, but is smart. And that’s just the beginning. It’s simply called Light, and there’s a Kickstarter program set up to raise funds to build the device.
“The genesis for this was about a decade ago,” said Pesce. “But the technology was still immature.”
Technology has come leaps and bounds since then. Wifi is everywhere, LEDs are cheap, and flexible, open processing power is readily available using things like Arduino and Raspberry Pi.
Pesce had his lightbulb moment – ahem – on a recent trip to Thailand. “The Thais love their LEDs, and when I came back I started playing with Raspberry Pi, connecting it to LEDs and then running a web server which would let my friends turn it on and off remotely.
He built a prototype but, as Pesce freely admits, he’s not an industrial designer. It looked like a pipe bomb but, most importantly, it was functional. Friends could remotely control it using its built-in webserver. “I can do some basic stuff,” confessed Pesce, “but I needed a group of people around me who know their stuff.”
Coming to the rescue was Kean Maizels, a hardware engineer, Breton Slivka as platform software engineer and Robert Tiller Design, for the look and feel of the device.
The Light by Moorescloud, as the device is known, went from idea to Kickstarter in five weeks. Its now got 52 LEDs capable of displaying millions of colours. There’s a Freescale processor running at 454Mhz, 64MB of on-board memory, and the provision for an additional 2GB via microSD.
There’s also an accelerometer, wifi, and it runs Arch Linux 2.6.
But here’s the kicker: to get the device into production, Pesce needs to raise $700,000, and he’s only one third the way there with, at the time of writing, seven days to go. But he’s optimistic. “Most of the projects I’ve looked at, if they reach one third of their goal, then they generally get the whole way,” he said. However he also noted the goal is in the top one percent of all Kickstarter project targets.
So what happens if it doesn’t hit $700,000? Pesce is cautious about predicting what’s going to happen, but he said there’s a plan B in place. He’s just not ready to tell anyone about it.
“We’ll say more next week,” he said.
There is a range of pledges interested people can make. $1 gets you a shout-out in the source code, while $25 gets a tee-shirt. Pony up $99 and you’ll receive a mains-powered Light once it goes into production. Throw in $30 more, and the Light will be able to run off batteries.
“We really think the technical people will love to get ahold of this,” Pesce said, “but it’s also something I can see being sold at Target.”
Whether or not Pesce gets there depends on community support. But one things clear. After 140 years of stagnation, the electric light is finally getting smart.