Turn the Lights On By Staring at the Light Switch

Michael Rigsby designed the "Look at Me Light Switch" that activates when a user stares at it.

Inventors are always looking for ways to make life just a little bit more convenient and there is a long history of applying that to interior lighting. The Clapper is a famous sound-activated example from the 1980s that let users turn on and off their lights by simply clapping their hands. The modern incarnation of The Clapper is something like a smart outlet controlled by a voice command through a service like Amazon Alexa. But what if you prefer activation without the noise? Michael Rigsby developed the "Look at Me Light Switch" that activates when a user stares at it.

This is an interesting use of the Person Sensor by Useful Sensors. The Person Sensor is a handy little module that contains a camera and the hardware necessary for onboard computer vision processing. Its purpose is to detect faces, which it does without the need for any external processing. The module relays information about the number of faces in the camera frame and their positions within the frame. It sends that out via I2C to a separate microcontroller, which can then perform tasks based on the information.

In this case, an Arduino Uno board receives the data from the Person Sensor and acts accordingly. If it senses a face, the Arduino uses a servo motor to spin the top around to look at the person. That tells the user that they've been detected and to continue waiting to turn on or off the lights. If they wait for a few seconds after that, the device triggers the buttons on a wireless remote through relay modules. It will either trigger the "on" or "off" button — whichever is the opposite of the current stored state. The wireless remote connects to a smart outlet, into which the user can plug a lamp. The effect is the user toggling the lights by staring at the device.

The enclosure and the spinning topper are 3D-printable. Rigsby designed this to be DIY-friendly, so all of the connections go through a breadboard. The only exceptions are the wires that tap into the wireless remote's buttons, which the maker will need to solder.

This modern interpretation of The Clapper isn't a practical replacement for every light switch in your home, but it is interesting and could be useful for some specialized tasks.

Cameron Coward
Writer for Hackster News. Proud husband and dog dad. Maker and serial hobbyist. Check out my YouTube channel: Serial Hobbyism
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