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A project for someone who lights up your life...

2 years ago, as a Christmas present for a long-distance friend, I created lamps that would synchronize animations via internet connection. This year, 2 years later, I created this updated version with the knowledge gained from the additional years of electronics dabbling. This version is much simpler, without any external monitors or keyboards needed (and just one simple chip, not two!) in addition to an easy phone app interface (thanks to Blynk IoT) instead of website and physical soft potentiometer.

There are buttons in the app that provide more flexibility in what animations you want to add: there are 3 sliders for RGB control, in addition to a widget at the bottom that allows you to pick colors from a map (so you don't have to figure out what the RGB numbers are for the color you want). There are also preset buttons for happy, angry, sad, and "meh" so you can easily convey your emotions to the other person in the form of lamp animations, for the times you have something you want to talk about but don't want to bother the person with lots of texts.

No electronics experience? No worries! There are just 3 main steps: connecting the hardware, uploading the code, and creating the Blynk app. Do remember, however: what can go wrong, will go wrong. Always add plenty of time for debugging.

If you use exactly what I did and upload exactly what I have, you should be fine even if you've never worked with electronics. Even if you make adjustments to the project, reading through this tutorial should give you a sense of what you need to change if you use this as a guide. Cost was also kept as low as possible: total cost, if you have absolutely none of the components, is ~$40 max per lamp.

Step 1: Materials

These are the materials you need for ONE lamp (multiply by the number of lamps you'd like to make):

  • 1x NodeMCU ESP8266 chips ($7 each, $13 for 2)
  • 1x protoboard or breadboards (~$1 each)
  • soldering iron and solder
  • 1x neopixel rings ($10 each, $8 if you buy from
  • 1x 5V power supply (at least 500mA output, so 1A or 2A will be perfect) with microUSB connection (or barrel jack but buy a barrel jack converter to bare wires) ($8 each)
  • Not strictly necessary but HIGHLY recommended for circuit protection (few cents each, but you might have to buy in bulk)
  • electrical wire (or you get get these ribbon types) (single core is best) (a few cents for 5")
    • You don't need that much wire; just 5" will be enough
  • You can do whatever you want for the exterior lamp (above are parts just for the electronics). I went with laser cut wood and acrylic, with sketchbook paper for light diffusion.

I attached Amazon links above for the cheapest options I could find (as of Dec 20, 2018), but you can definitely find components cheaper from different places. I'm still a university student so I had access to capacitors and resistors: try asking around any friends who work with electronics. Neopixels can be bought from for cheaper if you have other things you want to order from there (to save on shipping cost..). You can get the resistors and capacitors from DigiKey or Mouser too for much cheaper, though shipping may be higher. For the power supplies, an old phone charger will be fine (or just the microUSB cable if you want to plug the lamp into a USB port instead of wall outlet). If you have absolutely none of these components, your cost will be max ~$40 per lamp (and less per lamp the more you make, since you'll usually buy these components in bulk: protoboard can come in packs of 5 for example). I had things lying around so it was just $5 for me (yes, I'm a hoarder with friends who happen to let go of many things -- plus I reused neopixel rings from last time).

Arduino code and Adobe Illustrator files (for the laser cut box) are attached below.

mackg33 months ago
I am trying to make some friendship lamps... similar to what you are doing, but I just want to make them touch sensitive and probably use mqtt to sync up. Have you tried anything like that? I can do the hardware part by following what others have done, but the lamps don't seem to function well.