Ion Is A Wireless Smart Light That Reacts To Touch And Tunes

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Make way for another smart light in the room. Ion, currently in production-ready prototype form seeking $20,000 from the Kickstarter community for its final push to market, is best described as a digital updating of the 1960s classic slice of kitsch called the lava lamp.

(It’s clearly no accident that Ion’s Michigan-based makers have named their company lava.)

Lava lamps are of course very long past their best. Those waxy innards aren’t quite as viscous as they used to be. And, well, let’s face it, they were always pretty dumb — reacting purely in an organic fashion to rising temperature, and lacking any user controls beyond the on/off switch.

Fast forward some half a century and Ion wants to update the lava lamp for our control-freakish times. This digital mood light is way more controllable and also reacts to its environment — thanks to Bluetooth 4.0 connectivity, a bank of 40 tri-colour LEDs, a microphone, audio processing and capacitive touch sensors. The latter allows the current mood to be changed by tapping on the top of the lamp.

Plus there is the now pre-requisite app where users can select different colours to match their mood, much like Philips Hue‘s light recipes.

Except with Ion it’s not just colours on tap; users get to choose from various light displays — aka “moods”, which are basically different coloured flashes, pulses and spins (given aptly headachey names like ‘Pulse’, ‘Plasma’ and ‘Strobe’). The lamp will ship with 15 different moods out of the box — but lava says they plan to keep adding more as the Kickstarter campaign goes on, and after Ion ships.

The app also lets Ion owners set the brightness and speed of these displays, so you can dial down or up the headache-factor. Ion’s makers have built a website where you can remote-control their prototype to test the moods out yourself.

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The flagship feature of Ion is called ‘Rave’ mode — which does kind of hint at the demographic lava is targeting here. Rave mode utilizes the audio processing abilities of the lamp, meaning it listens to the music you’re playing and generates a real-time light show that’s in sync with your phat beats. In other words: party in your basement!

Low frequencies produce reds, mids produce greens, and highs produce blues. Every time a beat is detected (kick drum, bass, etc), you’ll see a bright pulse of light. Using the app, you can customize the emphasis of each color as you see fit.

Ion can also be have more subtle uses, though, such as notifications — albeit, it’s still taking the concept of hardware smartphone add-ons, like myLED or FLASHr, and sizing it up so that new Facebook missive or weather alert is rather harder to miss.

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Another use for the lamp is as a visual alarm clock — if waking up to a strobe is your kind of thing. There’s also an open API for developers to play around further. Lava says Ion can be controlled by a Raspberry Pi, as well as an Android or iOS device.

So how much is Ion going to cost? Its current Kickstarter entry point is $199, with an estimated delivery date of this August. The $20,000 in crowdfunds being sought by lava is needed to finalize Ion’s firmware, build the iOS and Android apps, and scale production, it says.

The founders sought to source and manufacture as much of the project locally as possible. The steel, design, electronics, finishing and final assembly were all done within Michigan. The plastic was shipped from California. You supply the mood.