When I first saw the Ambient Orb from Ambient Devices, I was pretty impressed. They describe it as a glass lamp that uses color to show information. Any sort of status could probably be displayed with an orb using color and flashing/pulsing patterns. I work with a team of developers, and I wanted an orb to display information about the state of our software. Specifically, did our software pass all the automated tests and is it ready to move to the next step in the process.
The orbs from Ambient are really cool, and I really wanted one. Unfortunately, they are $150, and you need to spend $7/month to control it.
I figured I could build one myself. I had several requirements:
*No monthly fee - I didn't want to pay a monthly charge. I figure we'll use it for years, and $7/mo would really add up.
*Controllable via serial port - PCs at my company are pretty locked down. I can't install USB drivers, but I can access the serial port.
*Bright - I want people to be able to see this thing. It needed to be bright.
So, I set out to create my own orb.
Step 1: Ceiling light fixture
The glass globe of the ceiling light has some coating on the inside to diffuse the light. It turned out that this coating was perfect. You don't see the individual LEDs. Instead, the whole globe just glows.
I needed to replace the 110V AC light bulb socket with 12V LEDs. The light socket was held in place with two clips. It only took a few seconds to remove the socket and fixture was ready to get some LEDs.