I’ve been kicking around an idea for a project heavily influenced by Russell Davies’ the internet of middle-class things. What Russell did was to shine a light on how easy it is to create a deeply personal and human response with simple bit of kit and some software.
So I created Robbie the Robot Interactive Lamp:
What I wanted to create was a simple messaging device to tell my eldest daughter I was on my way home from work. In theory I would arrive at my local station and press a button or check-in and this would switch on Robbie the Robert in her room. It takes the idea of the internet of things and makes it more tangible.
Robbie the Robot is a simple lamp that I bought from SKK Lighting on Lexington Street, Soho. (Sadly it seems that SKK will be moving out of Soho after 28 years.)
I wanted a fun lamp that was relatively durable and child proof. On an earlier prototype I used a desk lamp that unfortunately was too hot for my 5-year-old daughter’s digits so I had to make sure Robbie was safe.
Like Russell I used a Belkin Wemo switch to connect the lamp to the internet. Now I’m not wholly sold on Wemo as the perfect answer due to a technical glitch with the first plug I owned. Nevertheless it does the job.
My original intention was to use IFTTT to bridge the gap between Foursquare and the Wemo Switch. In theory I would check in to my local train station and this would automatically make Robbie the Robert switch on and off. I still haven’t got Foursquare and the Wemo switch synced up via IFTTT but I can still activate the switch via my smartphone (which I guess it pretty much the same thing).
The Foursquare checkin was inspired by a more advanced approach to the internet of things called “Where’s Dad” by Toby Barnes. I lack the programming chops to re-produce what he’s done but I’m pretty satisfied with how Robbie turned out.
One thing that is missing is the ability for my daughter to feedback that she knows I’m on way home and for me to receive some sort of automated tweet. I think that lifts the concept of the internet of things into a really rich territory.
Wemo sell a motion sensor device that links to the Wemo switch up but its too clunky for my purposes. There is a beautifully designed concept The Good Night Lamp, which at the time of writing, is looking for funding on Kickstarter. This has the kind of feedback loop I want for Robbie.
I have a raft of notes about how I could feasibly tweak it further. I’m quite curious by printed optics and whether it could offer a workable solution but for now I’m pleased with how Robbie has turned out.