Tag Archives: Lava Lamp

Building the modern-day lava lamp with Atmel

Having spent countless hours sitting as his desk, Maker Frank Cohen had always found lava lamps to provide a calming effect that would help him wind down after a long day’s work. This was the inspiration behind his decision to devise a modern-day version of the once-popular decorative novelty item, which recently made its Kickstarter debut.


Dubbed Waves, Cohen has created a smart Bluetooth speaker that features rows of programmable LED lights, each of which illuminate customizable diffusion filters. Whether one wants to keep it on their desk as a conversation piece or furnish the shelves on their walls, the possibilities are endless.

In fact, it can play your favorite tunes while the LEDs flash in personalized patterns, serving as a standalone light show. Tired of receiving social notifications on your phone? When paired with a smart device, Waves can alert you in a much more soothing, less intrusive manner.


Embedded inside Waves lies a completely open and programmable environment, thanks in part to the onboard Atmel microcontroller (MCU).

Waves comes with at least 30 minutes of pre-programmed light patterns out of the box, and can interact with other nearby units to create more complex light and audio shows. Pre-cut diffusion filters can also be affixed to the unit, but for the do-it-yourselfers out there, simply cut blank filters into any shape for a much more unique show.

“The provisional patent pending technology that powers Waves is extraordinary. It enables deployment of home automation, entertainment on a Jumbotron level, and Waves tech is the missing ingredient for the Internet of Things. Waves will only grow more beautiful and more beneficial as it ages, just like the iPod grew up to be the iPhone,” Cohen writes.

According to its team, it has already developed an online community to develop and share shows, computer networks to transport content, and radio networks to coordinate animation between multiple units. Supported by the Pinoccio global movementWaves is a cloud-based connected open platform with a distributed operating system, storage and transformation, as well as audio and visual display technology.


“If you have a student, child, or colleague you want to introduce to the world of technology, Waves is an excellent decision. It is the coolest new Internet of Things tech.”

Those interested in helping the lava lamp ‘wave’ hello to the 21st century can head on over to its official crowdfunding page here. Pending all goes well, shipping could begin as early as December.

HypnoLamp: Rebooting the 1970s in 2013

For many of us, the Lava Lamp conjures up images of poorly tailored bell bottoms jeans, long-winded power ballads and arcade games like Space Invaders. As incredible as it may seem to some, the 70’s are long over and probably won’t be making a comeback for at least a few years.

Photo Credit: Novemberchild, WIkipedia

Nevertheless, the Lava Lamp, invented by British accountant Edward Craven-Walker in 1963, is still a favorite choice for connoisseurs of cool, decorating the dorm rooms and frat houses of those who appreciate the ubiquitous cultural icon it has ultimately become. Which begs the question: If the Lava Lamp had a modern successor, what would it look like?

Well, there is a distinct possibility it would bear a close resemblance the uber-cool HypnoLamp. This Atmel-powered device (ATmega328) currently features four programs: Campfire, Matrix, Waves and Fireflies, with three knobs control the energy, tone and color.

So how does it work? According to creator Zach Archer, copper tape is attached to the sides, with strategically placed capacitive sensing tech changing the program when touched.

“The beautiful algorithms use floating point arithmetic (which is more conducive to creative coding than using integers), in HSV color space, which is converted to RGB and pushed to the LED strips at 60 updates per second (effectively 60 FPS), and it runs great, with no performance issues,” Archer explained in a recent blog post.

“Programming the lamp was a joy. Each animation was tweaked until it was hypnotic, yet subtle enough to accent the room.”

Want to know more about Zach Archer’s Atmel-powered HypnoLamp? Check out this page here.