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Michael LaGrasta's DeskLights 2.0

San Diego-based software engineer Michael LaGrasta brought his DeskLights ambient notification system to Maker Faire Bay Area this year, where I had the chance to meet him. In a nutshell, using an Arduino Uno Ethernet and 160 RGB LEDs (in the form of Adafruit’s Pixels, “the desk receives event notifications over the network and alters its color and pattern to provide those notifications to the user. The combination of color and location can be used to communicate a wide variety of information.” You can customize the color of the lights, flashing patterns, and where they light up on the desk to denote an endless number of different notifications, like incoming email, calendar alerts, basically whatever would be most useful to you. Also, “a light can change from green to red to indicate server health and process load or increase its intensity the longer you ignore your email.” Michael used an Ikea Galant desk, which has a frosted surface, but he’s currently working on a tabletop version that won’t require a translucent desktop, and will be posting updates on Twitter. Michael shared his step-by-step for the build with us in Make: Projects and is offering his code on GitHub. Useful project, and yet another reason to incorporate pretty lights.

Goli Mohammadi

I’m senior editor at MAKE and have worked on MAKE magazine since the first issue. I’m a word nerd who particularly loves to geek out on how emerging technology affects the lexicon as a whole. When not fawning over perfect word choices, I can be found on the nearest mountain, looking for the ideal alpine lake or hunting for snow to feed my inner snowboard addict.

The maker movement provides me with endless inspiration, and I love shining light on the incredible makers in our community. The specific beat I cover is art, and I’m a huge proponent of STEAM (as opposed to STEM). After all, the first thing most of us ever made was art.

Contact me at goli (at) makermedia (dot) com.



  1. But, how do you see the notifications through four inches of assorted documentation, office supplies, notebooks, clipboards, computers, and electronics that are layered on the desk surface?

    1. LaGrasta says:

      So true! It took making this desk to give me the incentive to keep it clean.

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