Automated Darkroom Light
Originally, I wanted to work with the idea of having multiple inputs, using all of the key sensors on the playground express to detect environmental factors. My original concept was to create a device that reads schematics/ analytics of an environment to inform the user about their surroundings, as well as provide some source of information to increase mindfulness. As my project changed, I steered more towards the idea of creating a device that solely serves the purpose of providing safety features to the user. The current concept was to create a device that makes people feel safer by lighting up the environment around them, when the darkness passes a certain threshold. This is a feature that may be very useful in situations such as exercising outdoors late at night (running/walking/biking etc.) or simply exploring/ commuting during dark hours where it may be difficult to see around. The idea of the lights on this device being light sensitive can come in handy if the user wants to enter a well lit space and not have to manually enter any functions. For example, if the user is walking outside late at night, the light is a safety feature that helps light the environment around them, as well as alert drivers of pedestrian in question here, creating a safe experience for both the user and the people in the environment.
My objective is to create a device that can be worn on the head that helps light up dark spaces for the user, as well as alert people in the environment such as drivers that there is a pedestrian nearby. Some goals I would like to meet include:
- Creating a suitable location for the device to be worn
- Attaching a few extra LEDs to contribute to the intention
- Setting maximum brightness to the device to ensure maximum efficiency
- Testing out the device in the environment intended for use, and ensuring it serves the function originally sought after
This device would be very comfortable to wear and use as it would be worn with a beanie in my model, however it is not limited to that! I believe that is one of the best parts of this design, it can be worn on multiple areas of the body while still serving its function greatly. In my design, I put it on my beanie, directly in the center as I felt it was a good location for a device of its nature. People that work in the dark typically wear headlamps on their forehead/ head, so this would be an extension of that idea, with more features as well as increased comfort. Since the concept is intended for people such as late night runners or bikers, comfort is of great importance and I feel the flexibility of where the device may be worn contributes greatly to this. Some areas the device can be worn include:
- Forehead/ head (as a beanie, headband, hat, scarf etc.)
- Back (as a backpack, back of t-shirt/hoodie/jacket, back of headband/ etc.)
- Chest (as a t-shirt/ hoodie/ jacket, necklace)
- Arm (as an attachment to a t-shirt/ hoodie/ jacket, armband etc.)
This device would ultimately be very durable, mostly because of the flexibility of where it can be located. The device doesn’t cover much more surface area than the playground express itself, meaning there isn’t much room for the device to take a hit or face any sort of tension unless applied directly to the device, which in regular use, is very unlikely to happen. Since the device can be unattached and even put away in the pockets for later use, this helps protect the device from the elements incase it needs to be put away immediately. Speaking of elements, the device would likely lack in protection against the elements unless diffused or protected by some sort of filament or plastic/ glass that would house it, as for the most part, the LEDs are exposed (as intended). The exposed LEDs are an intended feature to ensure maximum efficiency, although this efficiency can be kept consistent if the device is houses in some sort of completely transparent housing such as a plastic bag or a plexiglass box.
I felt that this device so direct with its function that it’s usability is quite good. The device is very easy to understand and easy to use as it does not require any input from the user aside from placing it on whatever part of body the user intends for. From here on out it’s fully automated as it uses light sensors to change the lighting of the device. Meaning It’s very easy for even the simplest of users to understand how to use this device.
I feel that with a device such as this one, aesthetics may vary depending on how the user would like to locate the device. However, I feel that in my own design and location, the aesthetics are moderate. The device is intended to be very functional and straight to the point with its usability, and any added aesthetic features may conflict with, or even get in the way of the overall function of the device. This is why I believe that although the device is not unpleasant to look at, the device has met a sufficient cap in terms of aesthetics as there really isn’t much more to do with it aesthetically to make it friendlier. Although organization of LEDs and ensuring all is symmetrical or lined up would definitely help.
My original idea or concept was to create an environmental observation device. This device would read the schematics and analytics of an environment and help the user understand more about their environment and be more mindful about how they interact with their environment. This sort of device could be useful for people who are prone to overstimulation, or general anxieties. As somebody who suffers with poor vision, I felt that a device that can detect environmental factors, especially through the light sensor, this could be a device that would help me out. I believe that I would not be the only person as this would help out many people as it’s very open concept. The problem with this idea was that the playground Express was not as capable as I originally thought. It was in terms of how many inputs the sensors can take at once. I began moving forward the idea of using all of the playground expresses key sensors. These include the light sensor, the temperature sensor, the microphone sensor, and the motion sensor. When I began coding this, I quickly realized that the playground express was glitching a lot and the outputs were very finicky. This was because the playground Express could not avoid taking one sensor or one input at a time as it would detect everything and since there are so many things in environment that maybe detected, this was contributing to the glitching of the playground express. I decided in order to move on with this project, I should focus on one sensor specifically, to ensure I don’t go into class empty-handed, and I still have some key takeaways from this project as well as a final deliverable that serves a function instead of a device that would not be functional. I decided to hone in on the light sensor, as I felt that it connected to me the best. I’m somebody who needs to wear tinted glasses as well as custom contact lenses because of my oversensitivity to light, as well as my astigmatism, which makes it difficult for me to see at night. Even in my own home, I need to be very careful with how I control ambient lighting to ensure that there’s not any glare. So I felt that if I created a device that well that well lit the environment around me, while not blinding me with its own LEDs, this would be helpful to me. From here I created my concept on a device that can be worn at night and uses light sensors to create an output of lighting that helps light the environment around it. I feel the playground express, although annoyed me with how finicky it got, is a great device for lighting as the LEDs get very bright. From here I created my concept on my Automated Darkroom Light.
Code & Diagram
- Beanie/ Hat (can be replaced by any other wearable piece based on preference of user)
- Playground express
- 3rd party LEDs (5mm diffuse 2v 5mA)
- Alligator clips
- USB cable + Portable charger (for power source)
Looking back at the beginning of this project, I believe that I had a very ambitious idea to begin with and that may have been what led me to struggle with the process of seeing the original intent through. I struggled to carry out the original concept, which also cause problems for me to create a new concept or work with what I had before, as I was now very short on time and I had not got enough time to test out the maximum capabilities and potential of this concept. Overall, I’m very happy with what I’ve learned with this project because it’s allowed for me to understand how the playground express works and what it’s maximum capabilities are as I feel like I may have overestimated some of the playground expresses capabilities in terms of how many sensors it can receive input from at one point. However, I still had a lot of key takeaways from this project, which I believe have taught me a lot. If I had the time to go further with this project, I would explore how many LEDs that I can install on the wearable as well as potential locations and easier access to modularity of the device. I would have loved to create a Velcro system where the device can be attached and reattached to different parts of the body so it can serve functions in any part that the user intends for. Otherwise, I’m very happy with what I have learned from this project, and I’m excited to continue learning!
Ada, Lady. “Adafruit Circuit Playground Express.” Adafruit Learning System, https://learn.adafruit.com/adafruit-circuit-playground-express/playground-light-sensor.
Recktenwald, Gerald. “Light Sensor.” Invention Bootcamp 2021, https://web.cecs.pdx.edu/~gerry/class/IB2021/programming/on-board/light/.
(For sensors that were not used in final model, but were still researched for concept ideas)
Barela, Anne. “Circuit Playground Sound-Controlled Robot.” Adafruit Learning System, https://learn.adafruit.com/circuit-playground-sound-controlled-robot/using-the-microphone.
“Circuit Playground’s Motion Sensor.” Digi, https://www.digikey.ca/en/maker/projects/circuit-playgrounds-motion-sensor/8321d9a5401047d89c0fc4b922de1bc3.