At Incredible Machines, we take holiday frivolity seriously. In lieu of sending traditional cards, we decided to gift the internet real-time control of our office Christmas tree. We designed a festive installation in our studio space and used a web cam to stream the scene 24/7 on our holiday site. Anyone with a web browser could tune in and play with the decorative lights by changing the colors or triggering blink animations. Although the flashing colored lights in our work space were a bit distracting, we were happy to give clients and friends the chance to peek into our daily grind and mess with us a little. As the site gained traction, collaboration turned into competition as participants started fighting for control over the tree. It was fun watching how many visitors were on the site at a time and see who's lighting design was winning out over the others. Some folks even took the interaction a step further and connected an IRL color sensor to the holiday website. It was cool to see other creative technologists build upon our project.
The interactive Christmas tree was made using our proprietary WiFi-enabled lighting platform, Visualight. The color and brightness of our tree’s LEDs could be set to be any RGB value through real-time websocket connections via a node.js browser interface. Enclosures for the bulbs (as well as the ornaments on the tree) were 3D-printed on our very own Makerbot farm. Rather than stream the video through a 3rd party, we configured our own custom Adobe Flash Media Server. This allowed us to create an extremely responsive interaction–the latency between the interface and video was less than one second, even when nearly 100 people were using the website simultaneously.