on 10 May 2011
In recent years, I have been trying all sorts of "mood" light gizmos and gadgets, since I am really fascinated by the endless possibilities offered by modern, powerful, energy-saving solid-state light sources, like high-intensity multi-coloured LEDd and laser diodes.
By the way, such unusual gadgets can be really handy, for instance, when watching movies or simply relaxing at night (especially during summer, when you'd rather not turn bright lights on, unless you want to become a walking dinner for any buzzing, flying, stinging thing in the neighbourhood...)
Unfortunately, many of such gadgets often turn out to be very disappointing, usually due to either manufacturing defects or ludicrous/childish design choices that make them totally useless...
In this case, though, I think I really found a small, luminous "soft gem"!
I literally stumbled upon this item while browsing Amazon's extensive lighting catalogue, and I was intrigued by the idea of a soft, plush LED cushion that you can put in a corner of a sofa creating an instant relaxing mood, maybe while listening to some good music, but I was afraid this might turn out to be one of those disappointing duds I described above; so, I browsed through the Web until I found a video that actually _showed_ this thing at work (not a difficult search, by the way), and I was really impressed by its effect, so I decided to give it a try, and I was _totally_ and amazingly satisfied by this decision! (Apart from some minor niggles below...)
On the outside you can find a _very_ soft, square, translucent white plush cover, measuring approx. 35 cm side-to-side, with a lateral zipper: inside, you can find the actual cushion, made with a sort of synthetic cotton wool-like stuffing, encased in a layer of tulle-like, loose gauze fabric, which prevents very effectively the stuffing from coming out. (Naturally, you cannot wash the stuffing, since you cannot separate the electronics from it, but you can wash the cover, of course, and there are even proper washing instructions inside.)
Inside the stuffing there are _multiple series_ of RGB, very bright multicoloured LEDs (I was unable to tell exactly how many, but I would say probably 9 - connected in series and synchronized in various "color groups"), which are strategically and carefully "dispersed" throughout the entire volume of the cushion, in order to avoid "dead" spots as much as possible. This detail actually surprised me a lot, since it is a clear sign of careful design, to avoid concentrating the light in just a single spot.
As soon as you open the lateral zipper you find a freely-floating, small battery compartment for 3 AA batteries (not included) with a simple ON-OFF switch; this battery box is also connected to another smaller "controller box" inside the filling.
The connecting cables are rather thin, and since the battery box cannot be attached anywhere to the cushion and does not have any padding, I think you should be careful in handling the cushion, to avoid damaging the circuitry (or your head...!). (EDIT: the LED wires inside are actually very thin and delicate, and I ended up ripping several of them from the LEDs, by simply pulling out too much and too often the battery compartment when replacing batteries; this forced me to do a lot of resoldering later, since a single disconnected LED deactivates many others: so, be _very_ gentle with this thing...)
After you put batteries in the compartment and set the switch to ON, the cushion is "active" but still switched off. You need to tap the cushion (actually I had to hit it rather harshly, since the detecting switch is not that sensitive...), so that the controller box detects the hit and turns the lighting ON. To turn it off, you just need to tap the cushion again.
This is another clever design choice, actually, to avoid forcing you to open/close the cushion many times or having to fiddle with hidden switches, IMHO. Anyway, I would strongly suggest to use the physical ON/OFF switch to turn completely off the cushion every time you have finished using it (as stated by the instructions, by the way), since I would never leave any _powered_ electronic circuit inside a synthetic cushion (especially since I could find no indications anywhere about any flammability of this product, even if there are "CE" and "RohS" approvals on the packaging...)
But how is the effect when you turn the cushion on? Well, to put it simply: simply amazing! :-)
The RGB LEDs go through carefully chosen colour gradations which cover a large colour spectrum (not only the usual red-green-blue), cross-fading and intermixing calmly (but not too slowly) between the various LED series: after a while, it feels like holding some sort of luminescent furry animal from Avatar in your lap!
The general feeling is _very_ pleasant and relaxing, actually, since the light has the right intensity (not dim at all, but not too bright either: just be sure to use this in the dark or with very dim ambient lighting...) and the colour combinations are very nice and varied, not to mention the pleasant tactile feeling. I actually think this is one of the most successful and pleasant applications of multicolour-sequenced LEDs I have ever seen so far in any "made in China" product!
The only negative points, IMHO, are:
1): As noted by someone else, the 2 small plastic hard boxes can be distinctly felt bouncing around inside the cushion (especially the battery compartment, which is heavier when it is filled with batteries); so, be careful not to hit yourself or someone else with the cushion, especially on the head; by the way, personally, I would never let any children use this, since in my opinion they might throw the cushion hardly at each other and get hurt (this is not a toy, although it is not written anywhere...).
2) In order to turn on/off the cushion, you need to tap/hit it as close as possible to the control box, which is not always easy to find; by the way, the cushion turns itself off after some minutes, with a sort of safety timer, probably to avoid overheating the LEDs or draining the batteries, in case you forget to switch off the cushion (which is also very wise...). So, you need to tap again the cushion to switch it on again every few minutes.
3) I have the feeling that, due to the high number of high-intensity RGB LEDs, the circuit actually draws a lot of power from the batteries, so I will be using rechargeable ones;
4) There is no way to choose a specific colour light combination or freeze the colour cycling at any specific moment, unfortunately...
All things considered, anyway, I really like this ingenious gadget, and a series of them on a modern sofa might really be the light of the party!