Rekindle Lamp

Project Name: Rekindle Lamp
Date: Spring, 2017
Time frame: 3 months part time
Location: Copenhagen, Denmark

Interaction Design ,

Rekindle Lamp

An interactive lamp mimicking a fire being kindled.

This project was done in a group of 4 at the IT University of Copenhagen.

My role

  • I did ideation and concept development.
  • All the coding and electronics work with the arduino board.
  • Paper sketching on the physical form of the lamp.
  • Testing of the lamp. 

Tools and techniques

  • Ideation
  • Sketching
  • Arduino board + programming
  • Prototyping
  • Laser cutter
  • User testing

The brief

Design of an interactive lamp / light installation

Inspired by a context of choice, grounded and motivated by IxD & aesthetic interactions theory

Our chosen context:

Create a bedside lamp inspired by the act of lighting a bonfire.

Sketching with arduino

In our initial ideation we settled for nice to have and must have features.

Must have: 

The act of blowing into the lamp, causing the lamp to increase it's brightness. 

Over time it should slowly fade out until it finally turned off.

Can be “reignited" by blowing into the lamp at any point.

Nice to have:

Way to ignite the lamp to turn it from off to on, mimicking flint-and-tinder or other old ways of lighting a fire.

One of the early tests using a piezo sensor

Throughout our work, we looked at our prototypes through the ‘lenses’ of various IxD theories and vocabularies. In the iteration shown to the right, the interaction feels fast instead of slow, way more instant than delayed, uniform instead of diverging and incidental instead of targeted. All of this was something we looked into correcting by tuning the values of the code.

At this point we also started sketching on the physical form of the lamp. In this regard we’ve talked a lot about the interaction gestalt, and how to make the user aware of the intention of the lamp. How will the know where to blow, and how will they know that blowing is the way to increase the light intensity. Here we got inspired by the rather simple but recognizable pattern from old phones.

The above video shows a more refined interaction, turning on the lamp by blowing, and the light then slowly fading over 15 seconds. In the final version, the fade will have to happen over a much longer period of time, to make it useful as a light source and not a constant source of frustration.

Sketching the physical form

While I continued working on the code and electronics (The temporal form of the interaction), we started fleshing out in more detail what the lamps physical form should be. Here we went through a sketching process, still drawing inspiration from bonfires. To let the end user understand the interaction, the lamp would have to give the user hints that it should be treated like a bonfire. We would have to get the physical form and interaction gestalt of the lamp to enforce this notion. At the same time, it should also be appropriate for a bed room setting.

We decided to go for a sort of low-poly fire shape, with a wooden socket at the bottom representing the actual wood of a bonfire. As for the lamp shade itself, we went for thick PLA, that we wanted to sand down to achieve a more diffused light.


At this point we continuously built and tested iterations of the lamp. Both in regards to code, material and physical form. We worked with laser cutting to quickly test out different shapes in cheap materials. At this point I also settled on what sensor proved the most appropriate for what we were trying to do. I picked an e-mikro Air quality Click sensor. With the right library, this sensor can measure CO2 from human breath quite precisely when blown upon. This proved to be much superior to sensors measuring vibrations and temperature.

Final iteration and exhibition

We finally reached a prototype we were happy with. The physical form looked like a beautiful low-polygon fire. The interaction gestalt felt intimate and imitated the gentle blowing to kindle a fire. The temporal form of the lamp felt very much like a fire. Next was presenting the lamp at an exhibition, giving us a good chance to test the interaction on a great number of people.

“Trinity of Form” from article by Anna Valgårda

First of all, the lamp was really well received. Most people found it fun and liked the looks. We got a look of surprise and joy from most people who tried it and got it to work.

When you observed people using the lamp, it became very clear that to blow into the hole, you have to hunch over a lot in an awkward manner, the lamp pretty much demanded that you humbled yourself before it to turn it on. Afterwards when the lamp lit up, it felt powerful, to have achieved something after exposing yourself.

Many people complimented the looks and the finish of the lamp. Some commended the details with the combination of wood, leather string and plastic, and told us that they liked how the leather string connected the plastic part of the lamp to the wooden base. They found that it fit well with the organic materials, in regards to the idea of the lamp being inspired by a bonfire.

It took a bit of skill to use the lamp. Some people immediately figured out how to blow the right way to make it light up, while others struggled to get the sensor to register the blowing. Once people got the hang of it, they could make it light up consistently. We liked this part, in that it actually takes a bit of practice to use it, just light turning on a real bonfire.

A small issue we discovered with our design, was that people thought they had to blow in the small gaps of the plastic. If we were to do another iteration, we would have to look into closing these holes.

Further Reading: