Philip Stapelfeldt's IKEA Hack Turns Your OBEGRÄNSAD Wall Lamp Into a Smart Display and More

Replacing the stock microcontroller with an Espressif ESP32 gives IKEA's intriguing smart wall lamp super powers.

Developer Philip Stapelfeldt has penned a guide to turning an IKEA OBEGRÄNSAD wall lamp into a chunky-pixel drawing canvas for animations and more — while Julien Dorra and colleagues have extended the hack to support and visualize the tixy live-coding environment.

"Turn your OBEGRÄNSAD LED Wall Lamp into a live drawing canvas," Stapelfeldt writes of his original project. Features: persist your drawing; rotate image; live drawing; OTA [Over The Air] update; Wi-Fi control; web GUI; load an image; switch mode by pressing the button; custom animation with the 'Creator.'"

If that weren't enough, Stapelfeldt also built a series of pre-programmed modes for animations and even games — including a version of Conway's Game of Life, layable Breakout and Snake games, screensaver-like starfield, lines, and circle animations, a working clock, and a weather display.

The trick lies in replacing the lamp's innards with an Espressif ESP32 development board or other Arduino-compatible device. "I'm sorry to say this, but you'll have to pry open the back of your lamp, as IKEA didn't install regular screws here," Stapelfeldt warns. "I lifted the back with a screwdriver between the screws and pried it open with a second object, but you can also drill out the rivets to avoid breaking the backpanel."

Removing the built-in microcontroller, the ESP32 board running Stapelfeldt's firmware is connected to the first of four LED matrix boards using the handily exposed-but-unpopulated pin headers. From there, control is ceded to the ESP32 — and the new functionality unlocked.

As Stapelfeldt released his project as open source, though, there's nothing to stop people from extending it still further — which is exactly what Julien Dorra and colleagues have done, adding a live-coding environment for visual code-golf games.

"We have live tixy creative coding on the IKEA OBEGRÄNSAD + ESP32 hack LED panel, at full speed and with 16 levels of grey," Dorra explains. "We forked the code from [Stapelfeldt], improved the rendering, and swapped the front served for tixy by [Martin Klepp], modifying the preview, adding data streaming."

Stapelfeldt's original project is available on GitHub under the permissive MIT license; Dorra's tixy-based fork is available on a separate repository under the same license.

Gareth Halfacree
Freelance journalist, technical author, hacker, tinkerer, erstwhile sysadmin. For hire:
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