As smartphone makers look to bring innovation even to the backside of our phones, adding all sorts of extra functionality to otherwise dormant real-estate, it’s perhaps no surprise to see third-party case-makers think along similar lines. But Codlight’s cPulse, which kicks off its Kickstarter crowdfunding campaign today, has to be one of the more ambitious and garish efforts to date.
Initially available for the LG G3, HTC One M8 and Samsung Galaxy S5, but with more device support planned via 3D printing, the Android 4.4 compatible smart LED lighting case packs a 128 LED panel and ambient light sensor. There’s also three touch sensitive buttons for quick operation of certain functions since the case itself covers the screen of your phone when you’re using it to fully protect your device. However, as with HTC’s Dot View case, it’s the potential interaction between software and the cPulse’s hardware where things become interesting.
The “smart LED” moniker refers to the way the cPulse interacts with its in-built ambient sensor and its own apps to enable it to act as a notification system, a fully-programable lighting ‘rig’ (the company has developed an accompanying lighting recipe file format for sharing of setups), an “Augmented Music Lighting Player” whereby the LED lights respond to music, and something Codlight calls a Mobile Lighting and Sleeping System. The latter refers to the way the cPulse and accompanying app claims it will be able to read your sleep patterns, triggering a “softly hued or flashy coloured sound” to wake you up in a way that aligns with your sleep cycles.
Using smart lighting to help you wake up gently or sync with music isn’t a new idea of course; apps for WiFi lightbulbs, such as Philips Hue and those from Lifx, let you do something similar. And, indeed, Codlight counts these companies as potential competitors. In fact, the startup isn’t a phone case-maker per se. Instead the French company says it wants to “re-invent” the way people interact with lighting. In other words, we can probably expect other smart lighting products to be developed by Codlight further down the line. As an aside, its founders Yan Lee-Dajoux and Francois Mazard have a background in the mobile industry, having both worked at the Wireless Division of chip maker Texas Instruments.
But back to the cPulse. Adding 5.5mm to the thickness of your smartphone, including the case and lighting board, and weighing up to 86g depending on size, the cPulse draws its power from the phone’s micro-USB port and also sports a micro-USB port of its own so you don’t need to remove the case to charge your phone or sync data.
To give you an idea of the drain on your battery the cPulse will amount to, the company says 1 hour of colorful lighting consumes 180 mhA at the system level, which is equal to 7% of a 2600 mhA smartphone battery’s capacity. That would also mean having the multicoloured LED lights switched on continuously during that time. For notifications, such as a new SMS, email or social networking update, that presumably won’t be the case.
Interestingly, the cPulse’s hinge is similar to the kind found on some camcorders and digital cameras to rotate the display. The idea is to enable you to position and maintain the LED panel to suit your needs, as well as quickly access the screen.
However, similar to the LaMetric smart ticker display, the cPulse will surely come into its own thanks to a planned public API and its own accompanying cloud service. This should give life to all sorts of other apps as well as the ability for anyone with the required technical chops to program their own smart LED case apps. That’s one of the joys of so many Kickstarter hardware projects; their maker mentality often results in them being ‘open’ from the get-go, unlike traditional hardware companies of yesteryear.
On that note, Codlight is also embracing 3D printing in quite a big way. As a second step, it says it will provide the native cPulse 3D files (case parts) for the most popular Android 4.4 smartphones requested by the community. These will be made available on Sketchfab.com for download and personalisation, while the native 3D files will be optimized for 3D printing via Sculpteo.com’s online 3D printing service. You’ll then be able to to order the additional electronic and mechanical components for home assembly.
For pricing, stretch goals, timeframe and more technical details, visit the cPulse Kickstarter campaign page.