Sometimes living in a smart home feels like magic. You say something aloud and your lights turn blue, or your coffee machine starts whirring. But what if you needed to do something really important ‚Äď like make sure the toilet seat is down?
There's a legion of smart home lovers out there tinkering and playing with home automation, and they have a knack for creating convoluted ways for doing simple things. They want a home filled with Rube Goldberg machines, and by God they're going to make it happen.
We've collected some of our favourites below. From a grill that figures out when it's time to take off the meat, to a bed that puts the smart home into sleep home‚Ä¶ this is true genius.
The self-lowering toilet seat
Reddit user CloudParadox has been dabbling in smart home automation for a little while, having already worked out an automation that turns his bathroom light on when he enters and off when he leaves.
His second act was inspired by his roommate, who would leave the toilet seat up, which would upset his girlfriend, he tells The Ambient. He wanted to design a mechanism that was powerful enough to push the toilet seat until gravity could take over ‚Äď but small enough so that it didn't look mechanised.
In the end, it only took an hour of trying out a couple of designs. It also didn't take too much time coding the MQTT protocol to activate the switch. You can watch the result above.
The bed occupancy sensor
What if you could put your home to sleep not by your voice, but by actually going to sleep? Your home would just know that you've hit the hay and shut down the house. Inspired by YouTuber Pete (his video above), Redditor monkers6000 decided to pursue a simpler version.
He used a couple of force-resistance sensors and put them in between his bed's base and mattress. From there, it's connected to an Arduino Uno, which takes the measurements and converts them into a value from 0% to 100%.
At 0%, there's no one in the bed. When he gets in bed, it moves to 75%. When the sensors see 60% pressure, a counter is activated. Once it reaches ten, a command is issued to put the house into sleep mode, turning off his lights.
On Reddit, BootsC5 explained a convoluted series of actions intended solely to let him know when the best time to pull the meat or tend to the coals of his grill. He linked his iGrill meat temperature probes to Alexa.
He then uses iBeacons to listen for when the grill is on. When it is, it sends a signal, via some Raspberry Pie and RetroPie devices, to start the iGrill probes to gather temperature data. Once the grilling is going, he can say, "Alexa, I am grilling a [thing]," which then creates a minimum and maximum temperature on both ambient and target temperatures.
When the iGrill senses the temperatures rising to either, it sends a signal and notification to his phone and TV that he should either tend to the coal if its too low or pull the meat if it's too high. Once the iGrill is removed, the automation automatically ends.
The emailing security camera
Sometimes you don't want to install multiple security cameras or worry about a potential blind spot in a roving camera. You just want it to pay attention to an area when there's actual movement. JRuben4 on Reddit says they used the open source Home Assistant automation platform to move his security camera.
Read this: The best security cameras
When his driveway motion sensor senses something, a command is sent to move his outdoor PTZ camera to point away from its usual location to the garage. Then it takes a still image, emails it to him and turns back to its original location.
Playing a movie or audiobook via physical book shelf
Remember in those old spy movies where you pull a book on a shelf and a door opens? What if you could do that, but instead of a secret passageway opening, the movie you pulled out actually played? That's what Reddit's VMU_Kiss did.
If you tap a DVD case on a book shelf in his home, the movie automatically starts playing on TV. If you pull a book on the book shelf, a random kaiju movie will start playing on the same TV. How did he do it?
Well, he used NFC tags and attached them to the book shelf and books/DVD cases. Once activated, the NFC tag sends an http request to a PC running the Kodi media player to play that music. In the case of the books, it simply chooses a random movie from a kaiju movie playlist on Kodi.
Locking your car with Google Home
Sometimes your mind is frazzled after a long day at work. You get home, get comfy and then wonder if you actually locked your car. Instead of heading back to your car and locking it, why not tell Google Home?
That's what one guy did, though he did it in the most convoluted way possible. He took apart an extra set of keys and used a series of wooden and mechanical switches to activate the locking mechanism remotely when he tells Google Home, "Hey Google, lock the Jeep."
To throw in some extra sauce, Google Assistant not only locks the jeep, but remarks how surprised it was that it actually worked.
Turning off the water during an earthquake
When the earth shakes, nothing is safe. Buildings can collapse, roads crack and water lines can split. Redditer Cognizantant knows he has a motorised ball valve on his water line, which lets him turn off the water when there's a water leak.
But he figured he could use home automation to turn it off when an earthquake struck. After some collaboration with the members of the Home Automation subreddit, he figured he could use the USGS' email alerts on earthquakes. He can set up a script so that when he gets an email alert of an earthquake, the water valve will turn off with the Homeseer smart home controller.