PixelGlass is an hour-glass-inspired digital timer that uses a PIR (Passive Infrared Sensor) motion sensor to measure time. Created in Becky Stern's Making Studio class, first year student Juho Lee became interested in ways to decrease water usage earlier in the semester, and wondered, "Could I create an Internet-of-Things device that would measure my time in the shower and motivate me to shorten it—thereby saving water?”


PixelGlass measures your time in the shower, motivating you to shorten it and thereby save water.



Here’s how PixelGlass works: Inside the clear acrylic case is a PIR sensor, which connects to an Arduino Wifi. The device is “aimed at the person taking the shower,” and the duration of the shower is measured based on their motion. The data is then stored on Adafruit.io as a feed. When the person leaves the shower stream area, the device stops timing, and sends a notification to the user via text message, email, or Twitter using the IFTTT platform.

“For this project, an SMS reminder seemed like the perfect reporting method,” adds Juho. “but people might want to use other notification options—tweeting out your shower time, or triggering an audible sound on your cellphone. Since the device is near the shower, the sound could be your cue for ending your wash-up.”

Using Adobe Illustrator to draw the design of Pixel glass, Juho then used a laser cutter to generate the shapes out out the transparent acrylic. Stacking the layers, he was able to build up the 3-dimensional form. “There’s something kind of ‘pixelated’ about the layers, so I thought that that would be a poetic match to the low resolution of the device.”

The project was Inspired by Fei-Fei Li’s TED Talk about how we are teaching computers from a set of data (and how they process a particular kind of data), as well an article in Forbes about LiFi—a category of Visible Light Communication. Juho remarks that it was also gratifying to use the project to gain a deeper grasp of the relationship between the Internet of Things and data, learning an important lesson: “Utilizing the data in creative ways is very different from just collecting that data.”

You can see Juho’s Instructable here, and perhaps be inspired to build your own!