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The Cloud is an interactive lamp and speaker system, designed to mimic a thundercloud in both appearance and entertainment. Using motion sensors the cloud detects a user's presence and creates a unique lightning and thunder show dictated by their movement. The system features a powerful speaker system from which the user can stream music via any Bluetooth compatible device. Using color-changing lights the cloud is able to adapt to the desired lighting color and brightness. The cloud also has alternative modes such as a nightlight and music reactive mode.

Photo by Greg Broom

Photo by Greg Broom

On one hand, ‘Cloud’ is an Arduino-controlled, motion-triggered lightning & thunder performance. On the other, it is a music-activated visualizer and suspended speaker unit.

Acting as both a semi-immersive lightning experience, or as speaker with visual feedback, this nightlight/nightspeaker hybrid introduces a new discourse for what a nightlight could be. Richard writes: “Advances in physical computing and interaction design hardware over recent years have created a new breed of smartobjects, which are gaining more and more traction in the design world". 

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The cloud itself is made by felting hypoallergenic fiberfill to a sponge casing that forms the frame of the cloud, holding the speakers and componentry within. (A custom felting tool was constructed, made from the left-over sponge casing and four felting needles.) Users control the functions of the cloud through a small wireless remote. 

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This is a new kind of magic, one not based on illusions and trickery, but on sensors and code. For the past few years designers have been adding more and more skills to their tool kits. The Arduino platform is one such opportunity for designers themselves to prototype and design what is inside the ‘black box’ of electronic devices. Inexpensive and easy to program microprocessors allow both designers and users to better understand the nature of electronic goods, and thus help in the creation of new and meaningful interactions. On a higher level the Cloud is an effort to assist in the development of this industry. In fact the Cloud’s code is available to the public to freely use and improve, helping to provide the blueprints for the next generation of smart objects.

In many ways the physical computing industry reflects many of the challenges currently faced by 3D printing. Questions of agency, ethics, direction and justification still to be properly addressed by the design world. In this light, the role of the designer could begin to shift from idea generation and realization to that of stewardship and leadership.

Photo by Bridget Badore

Photo by Bridget Badore