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Picture of Globally Synchronized Wifi Touch Lights

This fall a recent death in the family left a bit of a gap in our life. My wife started searching for a way for our family to better keep in contact with each other. After some searching, she came across these long distance touch lamps. Intrigued by the concept, I searched to see if I could build a similar product at a more appealing price point.

After some searching, I discovered the kickstarter project of the same lamps found on Uncommon Goods and the creator’s step-by-step how-to explaining how he made the Filimin touch lamp. What follows is my own how-to on how I created wifi enabled touch lamps to connect my wife, her mom, grandma, and aunt.

The wifi lamps change color when touched and synchronize their colors to be the same no matter where in the world they are located. Each lamp gets assigned a default color so you know who has touched their lamp. This implementation is adapted and heavily borrowed from John Harrison’s original touch lights. You can find more detailed instructions in my wifi touch light blog post.

Step 1: Materials, Supplies, and Tools

Below are the materials, supplies, and tools I used to make my touch lamps.

Materials

Supplies

  • Wire (gauge 22AWG)
  • Solder
  • Hot Glue
  • Goo Gone to remove sticky adhesive from the bottom of the lamp

Tools

  • Screwdriver
  • Razorblade
  • Soldering iron
  • Hot glue gun
  • Drill and 3/32” drill bit
  • Wirecutter/wire stripper
jhei16 days ago
I have set up two lights and they work independently but they does not follow the change of colour for the other one. Both lights are connected to wifi.
gpaisano4217 days ago
Wondering how to change the brightness of the lamps. I've gotten them to work perfectly but the brightness is a bit too high. I tried adjusting some things in the code under brightness but I couldn't seem to figure it out. Thank you in advance.
Okay guys, clearly not all the code is here and easy to find, if someone could gladly post everything, including ALL the files, that would be great, I am having a hard time right now trying to get two photons flashed because the repo wasn't complete with the files that needed to be included.
hsangione1 month ago
I've figured out the code and sensitivity, sorry for the spam of questions, but last one. Is there a way to turn the lamps off without unplugging them?
hsangione1 month ago
I've figured out the code, compiled it, and flashed onto my photons, but the touch sensor is way too sensitive. I used my own housing, and for the touch sensor, I have the wire from the resistor connected to a bolt, washer, and nut. I bought three types of each, zinc, stainless steel, and brass, to see if the different conductivity of each would make a difference. Anyway, the lights sense touch sometimes by themselves and other times just when I wave my hand over them. What weird is if I actually touch them, nothing happens, the only thing that sets them off is, as I said, hovering my hand within 6 inches of the sensor. I know you said the sensitivity can be changed, but I'm not sure exactly which numbers to change and by how much. I've tried turning the baseline variance up, and the sensitivity, baseline sensitivity, and sample size down but am still having these issues. Do you have any recommendations on how I can fix this?
hsangione1 month ago
when I try to flash the code to my photon, I am given this message "fatal error: lamps.cpp:10:22: neopixel.h: No such file or directory" I am very new to coding so I have no idea at all what that means.
What power supply are you using? 5v at 2.5amp? Also, did you have any issues with a Particle Photon? Ive had issues in the past with having a major component being driven off of the Photon and it losing power then not being able to boot back up due to corrupted boot sector on their flash memory, I would want to avoid that on the next project which is why I am hesitant on making these lights.
pblesi (author)  AlexTheLion20151 month ago
I use standard cell phone charger power supplies from reputable brands. Five volts. They vary in amperage, from 700 milli-amps to 2 amps. I have had issues with a couple of the lights, but most of the photon boards have worked fine. The one that I did have issues with, Particle replaced it with a new one free of charge.
hsangione1 month ago
Am I right to think that if I have a housing already, I don't need the UNIFUN lamp? It seems that the instructions call for replacing everything inside the housing other than the touch plate. If I made my own touch plate and housing, I wouldn't need the UNIFUN lamp at all would I? Also, to make my own touch sensor, it would just need to be any piece of metal soldered to a wire connecting to the resistor?
pblesi (author)  hsangione1 month ago
That is correct, the UNIFUN lamp simply acts as a housing for the light and as a touch plate for triggering the light. If you make your own touch plate and housing, then the UNIFUN isn't needed at all. You are correct with regards to your own touch sensor as well. You may need to adjust the touch settings to get the touch sensing to work well.

I am not sure how proficient you are technically, but one thing you could look into which I have not yet tried is to purchase a touch sensor module instead of the resistor and use this in conjunction with my manual switch code. I have not personally tested this, but it may work better for your needs.

Good luck!
jhei12 months ago
My touch light is reading random touch events, what would be the problem?
pblesi (author)  jhei12 months ago
It sounds like the power supply is not providing clean enough power and random surges in the voltage are causing the light to register a touch event. I would recommend trying to get a different power supply, name brand such as Samsung or Apple. I would also try adding a surge protector to the outlet you are using to help provide cleaner power. Lastly, you can try tweaking these values to fine tune the sensing: https://github.com/pblesi/touch_light/blob/bacacf33ea0b8bd36c8edfa28ffdab8e5a683f72/src/touch_light.ino#L40-L51

Hope this helps!
jhei1 pblesi2 months ago
I've tried different methods but doesn't seem to work. I want to use the manual switch button but not good working with codes. Do you mind giving so guide on how this can be done?
https://patrick.ble.si/manual-switch-touch-lights
pblesi (author)  jhei11 month ago
jhei1,

The link you provided (https://patrick.ble.si/manual-switch-touch-lights) should have all the instructions you need for the manual switch version of the touch light. I uploaded the code to a specific branch so you can access it in its entirety: https://github.com/pblesi/touch_light/tree/manual_...

Hope this helps
JoS1194 months ago
Firstly thanks - I've managed to get to the point of having 2 lights connected and communicating! I would love it though if each light had it's own colour when pressed though (i.e i'm green and my mum is yellow and brother is purple etc) rather than a random colour appearing when a light is pressed. Has anyone managed to make changes to the code to allow for this? I'm not a programmer so I'm not sure where to start with this - or even if it's possible!
Thanks.
pblesi (author)  JoS1192 months ago
JoS119,

That's great! The code should already be set up to support predefined colors for each person. You can see this in the setup instructions for the code: https://github.com/pblesi/touch_light. The caveat here is that if the light has not been touched for 10 seconds, then it will go to the assigned color. If it has been touched within the last 10 seconds, then it will go to another random color.
ethanacm2 months ago
What is the purpose of the resistor between D3 and D4 pins? Are those pins being used for something?
pblesi (author)  ethanacm2 months ago
Hi ethanacm,

I'm not super familiar with the touch-sensing functionality part of this project as that was borrowed from another project, but my understanding is that the resistor creates a measurable delay in the signal propagation between pins D3 and D4. This delay gets perturbed when a conductive field such as the human body comes into the vicinity of this connection, altering the time it takes for the signal to propagate. The code for this light measures a baseline for this delay and detects when a reading falls outside this expected range. You can see more on my blog post: http://patrick.ble.si/wifi-touch-light. Here's a new blog I just published that replaces the capacitive touch sensing with a manual switch: http://patrick.ble.si/manual-switch-touch-lights. And here is the code for the touch light: https://github.com/pblesi/touch_light. Hope this helps!
taz59638 months ago
Any way you can think to do this project for cheaper? I have a budget of about 100$ for two lamps, but I do have access to a 3d printer to make a housing.
JustinS3659 months ago
I plan on shipping one to my sister in Korea. Is there a simple way for her to update the Wifi should she move and need to add new credentials?
pblesi (author)  JustinS3658 months ago
Hi Justin,

The easiest way to update the wifi credentials is to re-flash the touch light while it is still connected to the network. You can see instructions for how to do this here: http://patrick.ble.si/particle-manual-wifi-creds.

This assumes you know the new wifi credentials before you move to the new network. One trick you can use if you can set your smart phone in tethering mode is add those credentials to the touch light. Then any time you want to add new credentials to the touch light, you can put your phone into tethering mode and then flash your touch light with the new wifi creds.

If you do not know the new network credentials and cannot use your phone to tether, then the best way to add new credentials is to set the light into listening mode (https://docs.particle.io/tutorials/device-os/led/photon/#listening-mode) and then follow particles instructions for connecting the photon to a wifi network using a browser (https://docs.particle.io/quickstart/photon/#step-2a-connect-your-photon-to-the-internet-using-the-setup-web-application) or a smartphone (https://docs.particle.io/quickstart/photon/#step-2b-connect-your-photon-to-the-internet-using-your-smartphone).

I hope this helps! Let me know how it goes!
thaimin9 months ago
I am working on assembling these and I am wondering why you are using 18 gauge wire. 18 gauge wire doesn't even fit in the holes on either the photon or the neopixels, those holes are closer to 26 gauge. There doesn't seem to be any major current going through them either. Is it just what was around?
pblesi (author)  thaimin9 months ago
You're right Thaimin! I just checked the wire I used and it is 22AWG. I'll update the instructions accordingly. And yes, that is just the wire I had around any size wire that fits through the holes should work. Good luck with the project!
raphan1 year ago

Why do you add Neopixels, you've already RGB and White Leds ?

pblesi (author)  raphan1 year ago

As far as I know, there is not an easy way to control the LEDs that come with the Unifun Touch Lamp via the Particle Photon

That looks really cool. This would be a great way to set up whole room mood lighting.