Friday, late July, 2018 - I get a call from my friend and former colleague, Melanie Fitts, asking if I could produce some orbs that blinked when you texted them for a pitch the following Thursday.
Sure, why not? (And yes, I'm sure she texted first!)
One problem with being a creative technologist in DC is always parts. We don't have local stock of microcontrollers or electronics parts like you might in NYC or LA, so you end up having to order things. On a Friday-Wednesday timeline, you'll end up using whatever's on hand from the last project.
I did happen to have a pile of Raspberry Pi 2s, a few Arduinos, some neopixels I'd had other plans for and some other odds and ends for interfacing with them, so I knocked together a prototype circuit Friday and ordered parts.
For housings, my wife and I went scouting Saturday and found these weird lamps at Home Depot:
Even shipping everything "overnight" meant it was going to arrive Tuesday morning, so I enlisted the help of another friend and former colleague, Kali Ruppert, to help make final versions of the orbs.
In addition to the hardware and custom Arduino firmware, I used Twilio and Dweet.io to handle the texts and serve as a notification mechanism, and then used Node-RED on the Raspberry Pi 2 to listen for the Dweet and send the signal to the Arduino via the pi's GPIO and an optocoupler to cause the orb to blink. It wasn't a particularly elegant solution (nor was all the point to point wiring), but then there was only a day to assemble, debug and test, and it worked with what we had available.