Let Clyde Light Up Your World

Amanda Williams and Bruno Nadeau of Fabule Fabrications want to introduce you to Clyde at this year’s Maker Faire Bay Area. Clyde is a hackable, customizable desk lamp designed for both utility and creative expressiveness. He is hopefully the first in a line of objects for everyday life that are accountable to their end user, encouraging hacking, modding, and personalizing.

Clyde visits Paris (left) & Amanda & Bruno look to the future (right)
Clyde visits Paris (left) & Amanda & Bruno look to the future (right)

The initial idea that launched Montreal-based Fabule Fabrications was making solder kits for simple LED-based lamps, aimed comingtobayareamakerfaire_2013at replacing candlelight in slum housing where fire risks are high. The strength of this concept got the duo into HAXLR8R, a hardware accelerator based in Shenzhen, China and one of the very few that focuses on hardware startups. Amanda and Bruno spent three intense months in Shenzhen, exploring the vast manufacturing industry there and work on their design. Their mentors at HAXLR8R encouraged them to push on the idea of “participatory design”: to make an object that invited input and customization from the user and that was a full, designed product rather than a kit.

A bright task light + customizable ambient light
A bright task light + customizable ambient light

Clyde consists of a bright (600 lumen) task light that points downward as well as a silicone “eye” on top that provides an ambient, programmable, RGB light. The flexible, posable legs are touch sensitive and can have wires run through them to attach different sensors and lights. Inside the lamp is a set of interior circuitry that is Arduino compatible; the base unit will come with a couple of different “personality” options, with optional extensions coming later. Clyde will come programmed with a series of defaults that can be switched between, but he can also be completely reprogrammed from scratch. One of the inspirations that Amanda and Bruno drew on in designing Clyde was the form and flexibility of marine invertebrates like jellyfish and squid. Their goal was to make something useful, pleasurable, expressive, and open.

Clyde's interior circuitry
Clyde’s interior circuitry

The basic Clyde unit will be plastic and aluminum, but Amanda and Bruno are also experimenting with a limited edition wooden version. At the Faire, they plan to have several iterations of Clyde on display along with an interactive demo set of personality options. In the long run, they hope to develop a whole ecosystem of different appliances and furniture pieces that can communicate and collaborate. They are already contemplating their next project, which might be a clock/digital display, or perhaps wireless speakers. But for right now, you can see prototype Clyde in person at the Faire this weekend, and check out their Kickstarter to learn more about how to bring him into your own house.

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I am a technology researcher and designer; a Steampunk prop maker and costumer; a writer of both academic papers and blog posts; a voracious reader/watcher of science fiction. I am currently contributing to MAKE by writing about the Maker Faire. You can contact me via karen@makermedia.com

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