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Imagine a product that combines room lighting with wireless speakers. I envision these devices to be about ten inches tall. Sit them on a shelf or desk, or on their own optional floor stands. I'll call these devices Atmospeakers because they create the atmosphere for the room, both in sound and lighting. If you get the lighting and sound right, any room can feel special.

I want my Atmospeakers to have four lighting modes.
  1. Artificial LED candle mode
  2. Back light mode to accent a wall (with color options)
  3. General room lighting similar to a 60-watt bulb (full spectrum to avoid sadness)
  4. Art light: a focused light that can be aimed at a poster or art on the wall.
I want my Atmospeakers to have motion detection so they spring to life when I enter the room. A default radio station or other source will begin playing and the accent lights would power up as soon as my smartphone is detected in range. Working with a companion app on my phone, the Atmospeakers might greet me by name and optionally give me a random compliment when I enter.

I want my Atmostpeakers to be integrated with my phone's alarm clock function. When it's time to get up, the system plays the music or nature sounds you like while the lights gently get brighter.

When I get a text or phone call, I want the Atmospeakers to alert me by blinking.

When I make a Skype call, I want the Atmospeakers to be my speakers but also my microphone so I can walk around the room and the nearest one intelligently takes over while the others ignore me.

I want my Atmospeakers to know where I am sitting in the room, by triangulating my Bluetooth signal, so they can adjust their sound to optimize for my location in the room.

I want a smartphone app to control the Atmospeaker's lights and sound and to program the modes for various times of day. The lights should have different color options both for the artificial candle mode and for the back light. And of course the sound levels should be controllable by app.

I want my Atmospeakers to be so smart that you can add a third and fourth speaker and the new ones learn how to act from the ones already in the room. Just plug them into the wall and they are ready to go.

I want my Atmospeakers to have a rechargeable battery so you can just pick one up and take it with you outdoors or to another room. Perhaps they are smart enough to know what time it is and recharge at night when electric rates are low while using batteries during the day when rates are high.

I want my Atmospeaker to have a USB charging jack and a regular outlet as well so I can charge devices without looking for the wall outlet.

I want my Atmospeakers to have a headset jack. If any one of the Atmospeakers detects a headset jack in it, the others know to go silent.

One Atmospeaker is all you need to start. Let's say each one has internal stereo speakers to fill a room. But the more Atmospeakers you add to the room, the better the sound and lighting. Most people would aspire to having four in a room.

Imagine a companion app just for the parents of kids who have Atmospeakers. When it's time for dinner, the parent app can override the system and cause the lights to blink. Perhaps the parent can also create a voice message that plays in the kid's room, such as "Go to bed" or "Come to dinner."

Perhaps the Atmospeakers are designed to allow third-party add-on apps to work with it.

Now imagine the Atmospeaker has Apple-class design. The thing just looks magnificent sitting there.

This feels like a new product category to me. One can quibble with the specs, but doesn't it seem as if there is something here?

[Update: I'm wondering if the problem most people seem to have understanding analogies is the same thing prompting so many of the comments to say something like the Atmospeaker already exists while providing links to things that are very different. In my world, a car is different from a wheel. The iPod is different from the Walkman. And a sharp stick is different from a nuclear warhead. If those things all look the same to you, you have a problem. -- Scott]
 
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Mar 17, 2014
just saw this on Kickstarter.

https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/653585402/airbulb-a-led-bulb-with-enjoyment

I know, just one piece, but the rest of it can be done by app developers. Sort of.
 
 
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Feb 27, 2014
Can we pull back some of the feature creeping and aim a lil lower for v1.0?

Maybe start with a straight "looks like a lightbulb version"- Some good power inversion like a nice LED or compact fluorescent (spelling this word sucks). Get a good DC pull it off and pass to a nice well established microcontroller. Slap on bluetooth and nice mid level low wattage class D amp. The cone of the speaker could be a nice heat resistent material that surrounds the bulb or light emitting part of the architecture and create the speaker element properly. The amp will wire direct to the coil which is included in the base of the bulb, but will need be shielded agains the incoming current found in the same area. The dustcover would be a clear material and could pass or diffuse the light accordingly. BT with the microcontroller would be able to (verrrrrrry slowly) detect incoming signal from app enabled smart phone. App would permit possible color/lighting mode changes and pass the music. Good software dev could pull in music history algorithms for mood determining, contact incoming caller id's for passing phone audio, and add a "pandora of light settings" for people with similar light/music combos.

A "Candle" type would be similar with better options of rechargeables, headset, candle mode and portablity. Similar architecture, but with a better option of combining the cone/coil and the light/LED architecture. Smaller size would enable a better combination of the ion rechargeables with a more potent room filling speaker.

V2.0 would clear out the heat dissipation and control functions permitting more mesh networking either in the back with BT or via secondary wireless (XBee, X10 for home automation, even a good MIDI program with some options could really make this a more Venue oriented light/sound option).

The aesthetic look to aim at would be to not re-invent the lightbulb, but create a pleasant medium of what we "expect" it to look like, but have it contained in a good mesh to dissipate sound and light. Give it some good open source elements for third party fun and turn it loose.

How much would we expect such a device to go for?
 
 
Feb 26, 2014
Rather than an integrated single-device, a cooperative set of devices. A smart music system that can detect who is in the room and what they are doing, adapting the background music as appropriate--playing more funk, jazz and harder classic rock when I'm alone, softer rock when Wife is with me, and mostly country or classical when Wife is alone, maybe kids get 10% of the airtime if adults are around. Don't interrupt a song with only a few minutes to go to switch modes. Speakers and amplifier should be separate so cost and size could be adjusted to suit, or tie into existing equipment like home theatres. A simple way to override, or to switch types of music, and ability to use Pandora or Spotify.

Lighting should be separate, with a combination of new smart fixtures along with bulbs, sockets and switching for existing or designer lighting. The lighting should be controllable via the system, with 2 way feedback--turn on the reading light, and the playlist changes to softer music. There are already smart TV's with colored backlights, that could be extended.

I think almost all the hardware already exists, in non-elegant forms. X10 for appliance controls plus a computer interface, someone made integrated lightbulb/speaker modules. Not sure about the "presence" sensors, but that could be done based on bluetooth pairing and a laptop.

 
 
Feb 25, 2014
It sounds like what you're looking for is Philipps Hue. It does not have speakers built in, but if you've got an mind for tinkering, it does most of this stuff already. I don't think I can post a link but they're sold in the apple store (also check out meethue . com).

Feature of hue that I love:
- any color (LED light bulbs)
- wireless (ZigB wireless network)
- 10 year rated life
- alarm function
- iphone app for control, with geo fencing (so when I come home, my lights are always on)
- 3rd party apps for things like Candle mode
- 3rd party apps for music visualizations
- open API, so you can write your own program to whatever you want. There's a library in python apparently that makes using them very easy.

Things I don't like about hue:
- Not as bright as I'd like
- Expensive.

 
 
Feb 25, 2014
Nothing like a random, factory-installed "compliment" to really hit that sweet spot of personal affirmation.
 
 
+3 Rank Up Rank Down
Feb 25, 2014
I'm getting the feeling that integrated, responsive smart homes are like Fusion. Always 20 years away.
 
 
Feb 25, 2014
It's a no from me on this one.

The music side is good however Sonos already does that and does it better than you describe (to my mind) - the queue for Sonos can be controlled by anyone linked to the setup. The audio link is a dedicated network and although it does not do battery powered do you really need that at home?

Get Sonos plus separate music reactive mood lights e.g.:
http://www.gadgetsandgear.com/bulb-tree.html
 
 
+19 Rank Up Rank Down
Feb 25, 2014
"Now imagine the Atmospeaker has Apple-class design."

I imagine they are very expensive, you can't install apps unless they are approved by Atmospeaker Corporation, and to changing a light bulb requires company technician using special tools.
 
 
+2 Rank Up Rank Down
Feb 24, 2014
I can see such a concept being useful in a small room or apartment where the efficient use of space, and minimization of clutter, is paramount.

It would be less useful in larger spaces, I think. Here the main problem would be that the spots where you might want lighting are not necessarily going to be compatible with optimal sound (similarly, the locations in the room where the sound is optimal are not necessarily where you would want a light to be placed). Of course, you could always keep the speaker in such a spot permanently muted, or the light turned off, whichever is appropriate. But then you'd have paid for equipment whose capabilities you were rarely using, especially if you were habitually only spending time in particular areas of the room (and hence would not be triggering the devices to turn on and off, adjust their own volume etc.).

I think what the system needs to offer is the option of adding speaker-only and lamp-only modules (possibly upgradable as user needs change) that are also integrated into the control system.

I do like the flexibility embodied in some of the details you mentioned, such as the dual USB/mains recharging.

The concept seems well suited to the needs of someone living alone, but the high degree of personalization to match the preferences of the main user might irk other people who are occupying the same space at the same time. The issue there is not what sound/light parameters can be controlled, but <i>who</i> controls them and when/how.

I agree with the implication of topsully's comment below that using the system as a kind of intercom to call your kids to dinner or order them to bed would be an alienating use of the technology. A parent ought not to be emulating the communication style of an office manager.

I do like the name you've come up with -- 'Atmospeaker' is quite evocative of the overall concept. I notice that the corresponding dot-com domain currently appears to be available...
 
 
Feb 24, 2014
What I would like to have is a pair of speakers that would open my wine bottle and serve it to me while massaging my nether regions. And then it would cook me a world-class meal while sourcing at no cost Kobe beef and black truffles.

Following that, it would produce for me an Asian love goddess who would satisfy my every libidinous desire, and then would escort said love goddess off the property, having given her a coupon for 20% off at any Bed, Bath and Beyond as recompense for her most wonderful congress.

And then, I'd wake up. Just like you should, Scott.
 
 
+1 Rank Up Rank Down
Feb 24, 2014
[Update: I'm wondering if the problem most people seem to have understanding analogies is the same thing prompting so many of the comments to say something like the Atmospeaker already exists while providing links to things that are very different. ...[..] -- Scott]

My guess would be - it is caused by pattern recognition tendency. Once someone detects something already (however vaguely) familiar, he decides - oh, here it is, and ignores details, that do not fit the pattern.
 
 
Feb 24, 2014
Footnote: For a while I toyed with a disappearing home theater. Simple enough to hide a screen. What I envisioned was a den/rec room where bookcases or decorated wall panels would slide away to reveal a big screen set in a simulation of an old movie theater. A special blackout curtain would cover the wall with windows in it; that curtain might also be decorated to evoke an old cinema.

It wouldn't have been a complete transformation, but it would have delivered considerable ambiance while allowing the room to be used as a bright, sunlit space the rest of the time.
 
 
Feb 24, 2014
You had me for a while Scott, but the idea of using them to summon your kids or relay commands to them as if they were a remote server that needed an occasional server admin to tweak them spoiled it. Leave that part out and remember that parents are supposed to actually parent their children, even if it is inconvenient at times. Even if it means walking up the stairs or across the house to their rooms to interact with them in person, fetch them for dinner, wish them good night, and you know, show you care? There are some things which don't need any technological improvements and parenting is one of them. Yes, I'm old fashioned.
 
 
Feb 24, 2014
Even with "rules" and tweaks the concept has a bias towards one person prowling several rooms, or multiple persons who don't overlap much.

I suggest you consider flipping the concept on its head: Atmospeakers and attendant technology that virtually expand a comparatively small living space -- a bungalow, an apartment or even a studio -- by changing the complete character of a room on command.

Yes, there's plenty of furniture that changes the function of a room: the sofa that becomes a bed, or the Murphy bed that becomes a wall. Desks that close up into boxes. Dining tables that collapse into small side tables. The challenge is to design these things and integrate them with atmospeaker concept so the function AND the ambiance of a room transform with a spoken command and a few simple movements.

Imagine: The largest room in an apartment is a home office during business hours. Quitting time. Atmospeakers & related devices switch from bright work lighting to subtler room lighting; carefully designed walls and furniture seem to change to earth tones. Work surfaces and hardware don't have to be cleared; they slide away or are covered with a few simple movements, everything in place for tomorrow. Living room or man cave surfaces, with books and stuff where you left them the night before, are brought into position with the same few movements. A sliding wall panel might reveal a wet bar while concealing the printer/copier. Ambient music/sound and wall screen images complete the transformation. You are not in the home office any more.

The expenditure of time and physical effort is very nearly that of simply walking into another room; less than it takes to make up or fold away a sofa bed. And access to anything in the "dormant" room is quick and easy, without requiring a full transformation.

Yes, the concept is not new. But it's usually presented as a comic or criminal idea: Speakeasies/casinos that turn into innocent venues when the cops arrive; the tasteful flat that turns into a swingin' love pit; the seemingly straightforward room full of bizarre multifunctional objects (Buster Keaton's "The Scarecrow"; Snub Pollard's "It's a Gift").

With space a more expensive commodity than technology in most places, the time is ripe to seriously develop such convertible rooms. Rooms that truly become different living spaces rather than merely multifunctional.
 
 
Feb 24, 2014
Instead of a compliment, I'd like mine to randomly criticize me in some way. Motivation to improve!
 
 
+1 Rank Up Rank Down
Feb 24, 2014
"When I make a Skype call, I want the Atmospeakers to be my speakers but also my microphone so I can walk around the room and the nearest one intelligently takes over while the others ignore me."

You actually want them to automatically act as a microphone array to better pick up your voice!
 
 
Feb 24, 2014
It all sounds trivial with today's technology, would just take someone to put it all together. Personally it seems like a solution in search of a problem, but I've felt that way about lots of recent big technology and web trends.
 
 
+11 Rank Up Rank Down
Feb 24, 2014
"...and optionally give me a random compliment when I enter."

Nice pants, Skinbag!
 
 
Feb 24, 2014
You can't throw a bunch of speakers into a room and then expect decent quality. You'd have medium quality, and there are bluetooth speakers, which would be OK for your purpose (minus the microphone) - and better if you're not alone (but you'll chose decent speakers instead). Besides that, I guess a moving sound source while moving through rooms would freak me out.

I don't know if the mike idea would give decent results. There are hands-free systems for cars that do, but they don't have to cope with random interiors.
 
 
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Feb 24, 2014
I would also add that it's generally not a great idea to combine hardware for disparate uses. When nothing is modular, upgrading becomes difficult and you might end up with a "jack of all trades" solution that isn't really ideal for either use.
 
 
 
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