John Schimmel      

Fireflies, a networked nightlight

Spring 2005

Fireflies are networked nightlights for a local environment, the jars can be placed in different bedrooms or other spots around a home so people can communicate with one another by tapping rhythms on the jars.

The story

The summer nights as a kid I would run around my backyard and catch fireflies, held lightly in my fist I would feel them walking and tickling the inside of my hand. We would collect a few in containers and take them inside the house where they would sleepover with us. Tapping on the containers at night would stimulate the fireflies to light up. In the morning we eventually remembered them and put them back in the grass in the morning.

The process

Fireflies are networked nightlights for a local environment, the jars can be placed in different bedrooms or other spots around a home so people can communicate with one another through simply tapping on the jars. For example, if you tap the jar in your bedroom you will pulse the colored fireflies associated with that jar. The neighboring jars in your home will receive and pulse your taps, record them and then play them back. The neighboring jars can respond with their own tapping and broadcast themselves to the nightlights in the home.
While a person is tapping the jar, they are in a broadcast mode where they get approximately 4 seconds of tap time and the other jars are in listening mode, again, for approximately 4 seconds *. After the 4 seconds is up there all the jars play back the recorded taps they have received. It’s a firefly jam session.

Fireflies work using radio frequency (RF) which broadcasts only when a jar is being tapped. The RF works nice in a home because it does not need to rely on an existing network infrastructure, a jar simply sends as far as it can for each tap, usually 400 feet, and any jar in that radius will most likely receive the message.

The nightlights work well even without their friends, as a standalone, the jar has enough character to create a presence that does not need to react or broadcast to others and can simple be a piece of a room.

* 4 seconds of tap and listening time was a time I felt comfortable giving a user and has nothing to do with programming or hardware issues.



Exhibited at
Grey Lock Arts 'LED Are Pretty' Show
Sony Wonder Technology Lab
ITP Spring Show 2005


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