A Berkeley Student's Experiment in Automated Living

A college student's automated room switches gears from "homework mode" to "party mode" with the press of a button.

There's nothing exciting about the standard-issue college dorm. Peek inside freshman Derek Low's room at the University of California at Berkeley, for example, and you'll find the usual mix of harsh overhead lighting and furniture so bland it'd make you beg for IKEA. But Low, a self-proclaimed "computer fanatic" and tinkerer, has turned his room into a laboratory for automated living, replete with motion sensors, remote light switches, and mobile and tablet apps to control his room's settings. More of a fun experiment than an exercise in the practical, at least Low's experiment makes his room stand out way more than that Jim Belushi "College" poster would.

Low baptized his space B.R.A.D., or Berkeley Ridiculously Automated Dorm, an appropriate choice for his oft-ridiculous decisions. Modifications to lighting and curtains help shepherd him through his busy schedule, starting at 7:59 a.m. when an alarm sounds (playing Justin Bieber's "Baby"), turning on a desk lamp and opening up the curtains. The same thing happens when he walks in his door. Meanwhile, apps on Low's phone and iPad, plus voice control, let him adjust his lighting—or announcing to B.R.A.D. that it's time for "sleep mode," which will close the curtains and shut off the lights.

While some of the modifications are more mundane—designed to make life a little bit easier in less than 100 square feet of shared space—others are more absurd. On the frame of a bunk bed sits a bright red "emergency party button." One push activates a disco ball, techno-soundtrack, LED and black light show, and fog machine. And if Low is looking for a cozier night in, there's always "romantic mode," which summons "Can You Feel the Love Tonight" by Elton John from the sound system and dims the lights. While Al Green may have been a more appropriate choice, the vibe makes a clear statement to roommates: Knock before entering.



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