moodLight is a smart box that displays real-time emotion

moodLight is a Wi-Fi-connected desk lamp that illustrates the mood of the online world with beautiful twists of color.

It’s safe to say that social media has not only revolutionized the journalistic landscape, but the way in which we gather news, events, gossip and other share-worthy content. However, wouldn’t it be cool if you could actually see how the world responded to such information? That is exactly what Connor Nishijima set out to accomplish with moodLight — a three-inch tall, USB-powered smart lamp that beautifully shines a spectrum of colors based on the emotion of Twitter users.


To bring this to reality, the Maker collates a sampling of experimental social data from all over the globe and displays that deep connection in the form of nine LEDs. The gadget works by sifting through millions of tweets each day and checking them for several dozen keywords tied to one of six emotions: love, joy, surprise, anger, sadness and fear. These emotions are graphed in real-time, placed on a server, downloaded by the moodLight and then translated into colors that are shown in the form of RGB LEDs inside a laser-cut box.

“For example, ‘I am so proud of my son for getting his degree! I’m going to miss him at home,’” Nishijima explains. “This tweet contains the word ‘proud’ (Joy > Pride > ‘proud’) and the phrase ‘miss him’ (Sadness > Loss > ‘miss him/her/you/them’) making it a bittersweet tweet of both joy and sadness. These emotions would result in a twist of goldenrod and cyan in your lamp.”


The system keeps a weighted moving average of each emotion’s tweet count per minute and uses this to build a sort of baseline average for each feeling. From there, it compares the most recent minute’s data to the average to deliver a percentage value.

In terms of hardware, moodLight is equipped with an ATmega328P at its core along with WS2812B LEDs and an ESP8266 Wi-Fi module that the lamp uses to make GET requests to the moodLighting website every second. While the VPS backend running the service consumes many gigabytes of data per day, it shrinks this content down into 25-byte summaries that the lamp consumes in one-second intervals. Impressively, this amounts to only 2.16MB of data consumed daily — which ends up being smaller than the size of an MP3.

The tabletop lamp can also be integrated with IFTTT, thereby opening up endless possibilities from serving as a basic notification portal to turning on a WeMo bulb or dialing your Nest thermostat to different temperatures based on a particular social media status update. For instance, you can define various combinations of colors for various alerts: flash red twice for an incoming email, blink brown and fade to blue for a UPS package delivery, or emit green if a Fitbit goal is achieved.


What’s more, each moodLight is controllable over UDP packets, making it easy to set your own color combinations. By sending packets very similar to the mood summaries above, you can change the hue of one or more of the nine pixels, set a global brightness level, put the lamp to sleep or wake it up, or stream color data at 30+ FPS, to name just a few. As its creators note, this essentially gives you the functionality of a Philips Hue or LiFX smart bulb.

Looking for new way to stay connected with news? Head over to the moodLight’s Kickstarter campaign, where Nishijima has blown past his $935 goal. Delivery is slated for early next year.

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