12:45 am - Tue, Oct 2, 2012

Why you should part with some $ for Symbee Stars Smart Lights

When I first heard about the product, I thought it was interesting and I published their video on my Facebook page. Later, I went to a talk on crowdfunding that John Sosoka held at Keynetics in conjunction with Idaho Technology Council. I got to know John better and learn more about his project.

In earlier talks with friend and ‘co-conspirator’, Caleb Chung, in a thing I named “Beer Porch”, he had mentioned some of the ‘brainchildren’ he and John had been working on.

John, is a brilliant entrepreneur, roboticist, and avid sailor. As fellow visionaries, we enjoy downloading when we visit. While we both enjoy sci-fi, we differ in that John’s idea of relaxing is being in his cabin with an industry whitepaper.  While John tends to be more introverted, his wife, Sylvia, is an irresistible creative spirit with plenty of pluck. They live a colorful life in the bowels of a Boise suburb known as Eagle.

(photo: Siennah Kessler)

John’s experience manufacturing consumer products in China over the last 15 years has led his vision of manufacturing this product and more in Idaho. His company, Symbeeco, has built a unique team of ultra talented people, both locally and internationally, to achieve that goal.

One of these exceptional talents is David Luis Ortega; a brilliant, creative, businessman, and musician located in Boston, MA, who has worked with John on prior projects. David brought his concept of a nightlight that could be controlled by your mobile device to John, who happened to know that Bluetooth 4.0 was just released, making this possible. Take note you Futurists, the internet of things has just began. Bluetooth Smart now allows a background radio to passively call out to items around it. Where previously, it required authentication and pairing.

John, who has several other projects in the works, in need of funding to launch, was interested in the new crowdfunding craze of Kickstarter and Indiegogo.

Add to this campaign, the art and design of David Rees, the sculpting design and craftsmanship of Marshall Sinclair, the architecture and embedded programming and development of Tyler Wilson and the app development from Jeff Miller and a hybrid of art and technology is born: The Symbee Star.


Welcome to the “smartlight”. Unlike the recent light socket on Kickstarter that requires access to a wireless network, Symbee Stars merely needs you to download an app on your mobile device. You don’t need a wall outlet power source or nails or screws to hang it.

This magic light brings together 4 important technologies:

  • Scotch 3M Command adhesive strips (been around for awhile, but they really work.)
  • LED Lights (The power, efficiency, and price has recently declined.)
  • Mobile computing.
  • Bluetooth Smart devices controlled by wirelessly by the recently released Bluetooth 4.0 standard and the Smart Ready devices such as iPhone 5.

While the initial release app is planned to allow dimming & brightness, multicolor, & flicker, multiple-use apps are being designed now to be released  later for your Symbee Star.

On the table:
- Gamers to get an API for a surround lighting that interacts with gameplay.
- Children’s ebooks that cause Symbee Stars to interact with the storyline.
- Metric apps that show mood, stock performance, or reflect weather.
- Passive notification that lets you know the roast is done, it’s time for bed, or that a meeting is about to start.
- Audio interaction with music and sound for musicians and DJs.
- Medical uses for patients & special needs children.
- Working lights for theatre backstage use.

Personally, I was amazed by John & Caleb’s work at Ugobe developing the Pleo robot. A small local company took the world by storm and created the first household artificial life form. Reporters and photographers flew in to Boise, many for the first to cover this story. Wired Magazine, Make Magazine, Forbes, Robot Magazine and many international publications. Pleo also won many awards from the DEMO 2006 Demo god award to an Idaho Innovation award in the very first year of the Stoel Rives competition. Skeptics might say it didn’t take off, but the robot is still being sold. So is the Furby.

Here is the crux of what I want you to know;

1. You can support these kinds of ventures through crowdfunding. You have the power to build manufacturing in Idaho, you don’t need government or venture & investment firms.

2. If we do not support these projects locally, the revenue, talent, jobs, and opportunities will go elsewhere. Do not let this happen.

What these guys are doing needs to be done here in Idaho by hundreds of other entrepreneurs. It only takes a spark, perhaps controlled by your iPhone?


Esau Kessler

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