free your darlings

Published: 2022-11-07

Alexa light bulb

Home assistants and smart speakers are everywhere nowadays. Unfortunately they are not very smart. At best, they are like a really stupid friend who is decent at taking instructions and navigating the Internet. The annoying voice interface is not helping. I’m sure things will get better as assistants evolve. While waiting for that, additional hardware could open up for more use cases for voice controlled devices of today. A camera and projector would unlock a bunch of possibilities.

Redesigning the devices and rethinking their role is probably needed to make them useful for regular people. Now the assistants are mostly for tech nerds. What if the next home assistant came in form of a light bulb? Or at least with a light bulb socket that you can just screw in place where you like. Or with a socket like the one for the fluorescent light under your kitchen cabinets. Just plug it in. No messy cables, power is solved, and it is not taking up any space. You decide where to put your assistant to make most use of it. Here are some ideas how your assistant can help you in the kitchen.

If you place your assistant in the kitchen table lamp, the central placement is great for picking up voice commands. The downwards facing projector can show Wikipedia articles, vacation plans or board games for everyone around the table. The camera can be used to scan documents. Just put them under the lamp. Things like the kids' football practice schedule, bills, or even your handwritten shopping list. The assistant would then add the scanned information to your calendar, to do-list or just save it for later. For the bills you could just tell the assistant to pay them using your card. Scan the card too if needed. And since the assistant is also a light source it can adjust the lighting for the best scanning or projection conditions. With the camera facing downwards you don’t feel watched all the time like you do with your phone or laptop. The assistant will know much about your dining habits i guess, but that is it. If you like, it can tell you about the products on the table or highlight the ketchup when someone asks for it. The assistant can teach your kids manners too. Like an extra parent. Hey! Fork in your left hand! No elbows on the table! I guess the assistant should be able to run apps, then it could really be turned into what you like.

If you place the assistant under your kitchen cabinets you can use it to display recipes, timers and checklists on your kitchen counter.

Since the device is using a socket with a switch, you can turn it completely off if you like. If your switches are integrated with your assistant I guess you could ask it to cut its own power.

I was researching table projection and realized that I was mostly focusing on the practical aspects of this concept. There is a decorative and fun side this as well. Here is a short video showing table projection installations made by a company called Quix.

Project plan

Alexa light bulb

This project is limited to creating a hardware prototype and developing basic software that can be used to demonstrate functionality mentioned in this article.

10% Done
  • Present the idea (this article)
  • Build and document prototype
  • Produce renderings of additional functionality and concepts
  • Pitch the idea to Google, Amazon, Apple or anyone else developing home assistants