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idea for iPod dock that can control lights Answered

I'm working on integrating a dock for an iPod/iPhone into my shelve/nightstand. The trick here being that I'm looking for a way to turn my speakers on/off automatically when placing/removing the iPhone from the dock (to preserve power). Additionally, I thought it would be cool if I could adjust the light level of a nearby reading light by tilting the angle of the iPhone, including turning the light completely off in one of the outer positions. (so I could actually use the iPod/iPhone to turn the lights on/off). Currently though, I have no idea how to achieve this, which is where I'm hoping you can help me. Which mechanisms/electronics/gadgetry do I need and what would be the best way to assemble it all to achieve the desired result?


If you were planning to use the built in accelerometers, you would have to write some software, and create a completely custom interface over the network. Now, if you were to move the dock that the iPod was attached to, it would be alot easier.

Yea. The plan was to simply move the dock to change the light via a light dimmer mechanism attached to the dock. I considered the idea of using the accelerometers, but quickly discarded the thought as it would be way to difficult to pull off compared to the relatively easy and cheap solution of attaching a mechanism to the dock and have that interact with a dimmer-switch. I tried getting the tilting-idea to work the other day, but the 30-pin connector that goes into the iPhone flexes far to much for it to really transfer the energy needed to move a dimmer-switch without bending and probably breaking the pin-connector over time. So the next move is to try the idea presented by Brandt_dk, and slide the entire dock back and forth. It wont be as pretty, but it should do a much better job at transferring the energy needed without breaking the pin-connector.

Hmm. I bet it will be hard to get a light dimmer that has that long of an action. Tell me if you do manage to find one. You might just have to end up using a fairly large linear pot, although it might be expensive to get one that big.

I found this one, which has about 5cm (roughly 2 inches) of travel. This seems to be a pretty good distance actually, as it wont tilt the iPhone so much that it would get an awkward angle (for viewing or operating). Had it not been enough though, there are a number of ways to make a mechanism which would translate x length of iPhone-movement to y length of dimmer-switch movement, which could also help adjust the friction required to move the iPhone/dimmer. :)

Foto 30.jpgFoto 29.jpg

Assuming your using Brandt_dks plan, then when the dimmer is fully compressed, it would be at about a 60 degree angle from the base, and when its full extended, it would be at about a 44 degree angle from the base. Is 16 degrees enough? It seems it would be hard to accurately set it at the desired level with such a small range of motion.

(I'm assuming the lengths from his picture, which look to be all equal.)

well technically, he wouldn't even have to tilt the iPhone using Brandt_dks suggestion, the concept seems to be more about sliding the bottom of the iPhone back and forth to control the lights. The angle that the iPhone changes could be any really, depending on the height of the triangle holding it (I might need to add illustration to this point), but really, there doesn't seem to be much point in tilting the phone if it doesn't add anything. With regards to the length and precision of the dimmer-switch, like Flark points out, this can be adjusted in a variety of ways. one would be like I've illustrated below (top down view). Depending on the point of rotation between the iPhone dock and the dimmer-switch slider, you can alter the "iPhone movement length"/"dimmer movement length"-ratio to fit whatever needs you have, for instance doubling the length the iPhone needs to move to slide the entire length of the dimmer.

iPhone-dock travel adjustment.jpg

Woah. That was weird. It like made it italics.

I don't really follow WHY you wanna control the light with the iPod/iPhone... It results in maybe affecting the lights when you wanna check a songtitle or a text message... Why not just install a normal touch sensitive touchpad-dimmerswitch in the nightstand?? But any who... Here is a quick sketch of a solution based upon the original idea... The dock itself at support to the back of the iPhone so you can do small tasks while its docked, and i don't feel flimsy... The phone is nested in the dock, and pushes down a button to activate the speakers when docked with the back of the phone... The base of the dock is placed in a trench, and connected to a dimmer switch-slider, so you turn the light up and down by pushing and pulling the dock... You could make it from mdf, and i see the biggest problem in fitting the ipod-dock print in the homemade mdf-dock, and how to lead the wires from the speaker button and dock-print, so the don't end up in a ugly mess...


This is interesting, thank you for this :). I'm thinking maybe using acrylic for the dock could give it a nice look, though I might be looking for something more simple and discrete. I do really like the potential of how this allows control of the light though, push the entire phone back to increase the light, pull it forward or push down from above to shut off the lights. Might be easier to control at 6 am, when you're half asleep and can't see a thing :). The wires are a non-issue as I intend to carve the dock into the surface, meaning that the wires would be hidden beneath it. To answer your first question, the reason I wanted to integrate the controls in the iPhone-dock was basically that I liked the idea of having a very simple, buttonless nightstand where everything is controlled by the only thing sticking out, the iPhone. This would make it possible to make something really minimalistic, and also easier to find and control when I'm drowsy and fumbling about in the dark :) Switching songs shouldn't be to difficult if the tilt/push mechanism is solid enough to withstand simple touches on the screen, but you are right that this needs to be considered into the design, which is why I'm looking for a way to control the friction in the tilt/push-mechanism. Text messaging or more complicated tasks, I would most likely pull the iPhone from the dock, leaving the state of the light at the point where it was when the iPhone was docked. Thanks again for your suggestion :)

I have sketched two solutions on how to adjust/turn off the light. The first solution (marked 1 on the sketch) is just turning the light on and off without any transitions in between, so this is the rough version - light or no light. You turn the light on by tilting the dock to one side and then pressing a standard light switch and vise versa for turning off. The second (and actual solution) uses the same princple just with a light dimmer instead (you know, the type where you slide a button from one side to another for dimming the light). By making a simple gear on the platform on which the dock should be placed, you will be able to dim the light by tilting the dock to sides. A simple but cheap solution... :-)


Brilliant! thank you :). this is just what I was looking for. I'm considering tilting the dock back and forth instead of sideways (for the sake of symmetry). Now I just need to find a way to gain control of the force required to tilt the iPod/iPhone so it doesn't tilt to easily or by itself due to the weight, but doesn't require me to hit the thing before it actually moves either. I'm also considering if there should be two switches for the light (one in the dock as described and a regular one outside) so I can still control the light even though an iPod is not docked. However I'm not sure which type of swithces/wiring I need as the switches need to be aware of each other, as in there should be no definitive positions for on/off as it depends on the position of the other switch (if that makes any sense). I'm pretty sure these types of switches can be bought, but I'm not sure what they're called or if it's possible to build a similar functionality by one self more cheaply as I would like to keep the costs down. Anyone familiar with what I'm rambling about?