March 17, 2014 at 3:48 pm

AirBulb: Light, Sound, and the Internet of Things

Hong Kong-based Avantconcept’s AirBulb launched a Kickstarter campaign over the weekend to sell an efficient, Bluetooth-enabled lightbulb that also functions as a speaker.

Plug up to two of them into any standard sockets in your home, and just like that, you’ll have the ability to control the light and sound on your new speaker lightbulbs with an Android or iOS app, while playing synchronized music on both of your lightbulb/speakers — one lightbulb for the left channel, other for the right.

The SoundBulb probably doesn’t sound too amazing (see interview below), because hey, it’s a lightbulb — a lightbulb whose color and brightness you can change from the included Android/iOS app, that is.

Even in relatively early the beta version of the app, the AirBulb can do things with its light to tell you when you receive a Facebook or Twitter alert, an email, incoming call, or even when your phone has a low battery:

airbulb apps

The AirBulb can also act as an alarm clock in concert with whatever music or other audio you have set to wake you up in the morning:

AirBulb says it is still adding features to its as-yet-unreleased app and music lightbulb. Clearly, there’s all kinds of potential for integrating music and lights — color to indicate genre, specific lighting scenes for each artist, the popularity of the now-playing song among other listeners indicated by the color of the light or brightness, and who knows what else. If a song is “hot” on the charts, an app could trigger AirBulb’s ability to alter light temperature from hot (more yellows) to cold (more blues). Play me ‘Rainy Day Woman‘ with some blue lights to wake me up on a rainy day. Or if it’s time to leave for the X because there’s traffic on the Y… the list goes on and on.

If an app developer or for that matter user can envision the triggering of a light/music combination by anything, it should be commonplace to be able to make that vision a reality before too long, with presets sharable between users, and AirBulb has already brought some of these implications (ouch) to light.

That said, AirBulb might work more as a demonstration of the beginning of what will be possible with sound/light integration in the home, as our outlets, bulbs, and speakers all get smarter and more connected to our music streaming services and apps, and to each other, than as a real product on its own.

Avantconcept told us it is not working on an API to let music app developers put AirBulb features into their apps (see interview below); it works on Bluetooth as opposed to WiFi; and of course it’s not going to sound like a real stereo. But by merely unifying lightbulb and speaker into the same device, AirBulb has already proven its point: in the Internet of Things era, it won’t be weird or even difficult to “wire” your smart lighting/electrical system together with your home’s wireless music system.

Google’s Nest smart thermostat costs $249 with shipping. Home Depot sells a $50 Belkin “smart outlet” that can be turned on or off via WiFi. This stuff is already entering the mainstream. Suddenly, the idea of “wiring” your house for coordinated control of light and sound doesn’t seem so crazy, especially when light can be used to tell you about the sound, and when both can be wired into scenes to be triggered by manual controls or just about any event in our lives, or on our calendars.

We had a couple of questions for AirBulb, because we’re curious how this $59 speaker bulb will sound, and how it will integrate with other stuff — the two most important issues for any speaker manufacturer in 2014:

Eliot Van Buskirk, Do you have any information (audio specs or anything else) that could help me understand how good this will sound? Is it anywhere near as good as, say, a Jambox?

YW Nok, creative director, hardware developer, AirBulb: We didn’t compare it with the Jambox before, thanks your suggestion, we will do such comparison to get more acrostic analysis later on. Open API would be a good idea for second development. We will consider, it need to discuss with our development team to found a way to achieve.

Nok: Open API would be a good idea for second development. We will consider, it need to discuss with our development team to found a way to achieve.

After three days, AirBulb has gathered about $23K of the $100K it needs to launch, with 41 days left on its Kickstarter campaign. Even if it fails, it has already demonstrated the sort of thing that will soon be possible, on the relative cheap, with light/sound integration in the home.

Stay tuned for more digital music news, reviews, and analysis.