Internet is magic

LEDs for two figurines that show whether my friends are online.

Friendship is magic! I like the My Little Pony series, and two of my best friends, knowing that, surprised me with self-made versions of Twilight and Fluttershy at my birthday.

Twilight and Fluttershy

Aren’t they adorable?

As you can see in the picture, I grabbed some diffused LEDs and illuminated my ponies.

That was kind of unexciting after a while. Luckily, I had an ESP8266 to spare. These modules are small Arduino compatible WiFi modules, so with some programming knowledge you can control GPIOs via WiFi.

Awesome! Let’s connect the ponies to the world wide web.

Inside view

Not much to see here

I wrote a quick-and-dirty Arduino sketch, uploaded it and was able to control the LEDs via netcat. You can find the sketch here.

Twilight glows

The cables in the background supply power.

And now comes the fun part. Both of my friends chat with me via Telegram. Unlike WhatsApp, Telegram has an open API that allows me to easily receive their online status.

I installed the telegram-cli client on my Raspberry Pi, a cheap and small computer, and set up an autostart script. telegram-cli runs in bot mode, a python script updates the LEDs every minute. I uploaded the script here.

So whenever my friends are online, their corresponding pony starts to glow.

Fluttershy glows Twilight and Fluttershy glowing in the dark

When they light up at night, you can feel the magic.

If you want to build something similar to this, be sure to ask your friends whether it’s okay for them that you monitor their presence all day long.