Join 3,574 readers in helping fund MetaFilter (Hide)


How can I trip motion detector lights continuously?
July 8, 2004 9:25 AM   Subscribe

ScienceProjectFilter: Can anybody help me devise some sort of a MacGyver-y whatchamahoosis to fool the motion dectector lights in my office into staying on?

Here's the problem: My office is badly designed. I get no natural light, and the lights to my office are set on a motion dector switch that cannot be disabled and turns off rather quickly. The problem is that 1) I keep pretty still when I'm in my office, and 2) the motion detector itself is placed in an awful spot, where my motions at my desk (even frantic motions, like insane hand waving or jumping jacks), are NOT detected. I'm finding myself in the dark quite often, which is more distracting than I ever could have imagined. So, since the detector isn't noticing my motions, I'd like to rig some sort of device up in front of the dectector that would move about enough to keep the lights on while I'm in the office.

Basically, the dectector is in a corner of the office, about 2 feet below a large shelf, and 18 inches away from a gigantic file cabinet. The shelf and the cabinet block most of the sensor's ability to detect motion, and neither the shelf or the cabinet can be moved or removed.

There might be enough room for a small table in front of the detector to place the thing I we invent, but it's really rather high off the ground, so that's not ideal; and I think the file cabinet is too close to the detector for anything resting on top of the cabinet to be detected. What I'm thinking of is putting together (ideally from materials I already have in the office, but I'm open to other ideas, or towards supplemental items if these won't work) is something that would dangle down from the shelf, in front of the detector and would swing or sway for a long time. But I'm no MacGyver, so I could use some design ideas.

Here's an idea of what I have handy to use: a long length of string;a nut; a washer; several small screws; a box of paperclips; a box of pushpins; lots of pencils; a 4-in. toy plastic dinosaur; scotch tape; 4 metal mounting brackets; paper. reams of paper; and, lots & lots of plastic monkeys (don't ask)

I've tried swinging the dinosaur on the string, dangling from the shelf, but that's just heavy enough that it stops swinging quickly and doesn't give me much more time in the light. I then realized that since the detector is in a corner, there's not enough room for any sort of pendulum design to sustain a particularly wide arc. And then I was out of ideas.

So, how about it? Any ideas of what I could build to keep my lights on while I'm in my office? Or, failing that, any ideas of other ways that I could trick my motion detection lights? Any suggestions, brainstormed ideas, or off-the-wall strategies will be appreciated. Show me the light, Metafilter! Please, show me the light!
posted by .kobayashi. to Technology (26 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
 
Here's the problem: My office is badly designed. I get no natural light, and the lights to my office are set on a motion dector switch that cannot be disabled and turns off rather quickly. The problem is that 1) I keep pretty still when I'm in my office, and 2) the motion detector itself is placed in an awful spot, where my motions at my desk (even frantic motions, like insane hand waving or jumping jacks), are NOT detected. I'm finding myself in the dark quite often, which is more distracting than I ever could have imagined. So, since the detector isn't noticing my motions, I'd like to rig some sort of device up in front of the dectector that would move about enough to keep the lights on while I'm in the office.

Basically, the dectector is in a corner of the office, about 2 feet below a large shelf, and 18 inches away from a gigantic file cabinet. The shelf and the cabinet block most of the sensor's ability to detect motion, and neither the shelf or the cabinet can be moved or removed.

There might be enough room for a small table in front of the detector to place the thing I we invent, but it's really rather high off the ground, so that's not ideal; and I think the file cabinet is too close to the detector for anything resting on top of the cabinet to be detected. What I'm thinking of is putting together (ideally from materials I already have in the office, but I'm open to other ideas, or towards supplemental items if these won't work) is something that would dangle down from the shelf, in front of the detector and would swing or sway for a long time. But I'm no MacGyver, so I could use some design ideas.

Here's an idea of what I have handy to use: a long length of string;a nut; a washer; several small screws; a box of paperclips; a box of pushpins; lots of pencils; a 4-in. toy plastic dinosaur; scotch tape; 4 metal mounting brackets; paper. reams of paper; and, lots & lots of plastic monkeys (don't ask)

I've tried swinging the dinosaur on the string, dangling from the shelf, but that's just heavy enough that it stops swinging quickly and doesn't give me much more time in the light. I then realized that since the detector is in a corner, there's not enough room for any sort of pendulum design to sustain a particularly wide arc. And then I was out of ideas.

So, how about it? Any ideas of what I could build to keep my lights on while I'm in my office? Or, failing that, any ideas of other ways that I could trick my motion detection lights? Any suggestions, brainstormed ideas, or off-the-wall strategies will be appreciated. Show me the light, Metafilter! Please, show me the light!
posted by .kobayashi. at 9:27 AM on July 8, 2004


We have those detectors in our windowless bathrooms, set to a very short interval, and no, it can't see people when they're in a stall. Hilarity ensues. Folks have taken to throwing shoes over the door when they need to find their way out.

If the room can't be reconfigured, it would seem to me that whoever manages your facility could at the very least extend the interval. Not that it would do much for someone who sits and types for three hours at a stretch, but it could help. And if this is an advanced system, they could probably set it to default "on" during working hours or something.

That said, from what you've got to work with, I doubt you'll be able to make a perpetual motion machine. (No doubt millions of cubicle prisoners have realized the same thing, funky lights or not.) Anything that swings will stop. You need something powered.

Any chance you could spare a few bucks for one of those "executive" metal ball clacking things? I bet putting that on the shelf would help. Even if it's not enough physical motion, the sounds coming off that thing alone could approximate it pretty well. Any battery-operated distraction like that could work, actually -- just visit your nearest cheap-and-cheesy novelty store in the mall.

Or, if you're the only person in the office, I wonder if a standing fan near you pointed at something "flappy" near the sensor would work?
posted by pzarquon at 9:36 AM on July 8, 2004


i'm the only one in the office. adding a fan to make the gizmo go is by no means out of the question.
posted by .kobayashi. at 9:41 AM on July 8, 2004


A fan would work.

How about one of those chicken things that constantly bobs down into a cup of water? I have no idea what they're called or even if I'm describing it correctly.

A goldfish in a bowl? A hamster on a wheer?

A lava lamp?
posted by bondcliff at 9:50 AM on July 8, 2004


While I'm looking forward to the Rube Goldberg contraptions this thread will lead to, what about just telling someone to disconnect the motion detector for you? Or getting a lamp?
posted by bcwinters at 9:50 AM on July 8, 2004


All you need is one of those " drinky birds" - like these. Not perpetual motion, but they do keep going for a long time.

It's a technique pioneered by Homer Simpson. He used one to continually press the "y" button on his computer while working from home. It can't fail!
posted by aladfar at 9:51 AM on July 8, 2004


If you have lots and lots of plastic monkeys in your office, then a nice miniature train set won't be out of place. So get a little electric choo-choo, and set up the track so it passes near the motion sensor.

If anyone ever complains that you're circumventing their building controls, then put a motion detector on your mouse to control the power to the choo-choo train.
posted by yesster at 9:51 AM on July 8, 2004


Doh! Bondcliff beat me to it. And here I was thinking I was all smarty-pants. Seriously though, it should work if you can get it fairly close to the detector.
posted by aladfar at 9:52 AM on July 8, 2004


Thanks, aladfar, I was too lazy to google for one. And I was also thinking of Homer when I posted it. Great minds, as they say...
posted by bondcliff at 10:06 AM on July 8, 2004


Oh, yeah, and I've already contacted facilities management, but I'm pretty certain that our building supervisor is named Godot (or he might as well be); hence the search for other solutions.
posted by .kobayashi. at 10:09 AM on July 8, 2004


None of these ideas will work because most motion detectors work by detecting heat; they use an infrared filter and a lens to detect the infrared radiation emitted by humans, critters or
other hot objects and won't detect anything that is room temperature.

You'd need to flick lit matches past it or perhaps you could tether a cat to a small length of rope. Loud noises could then be used to rouse cat into detector turner on mode.
posted by zeoslap at 10:10 AM on July 8, 2004


Of course you could just buy a desk lamp....
posted by zeoslap at 10:22 AM on July 8, 2004


zeoslap, Really i thought the most efficient method was simply the image comparison from one image to the next. Heat would bbe screwed up during the day as a warm seat or cup of coffee may make it stay on.
The image comaprison is why these devices need controls to block out ares that would look like movement but really are not. ie a shadow moving as the sun moved etc.

Kobayashi, try waving a stick with nothing else moving to see if it really is using infra red.

I think a "dippy bird", or pendulum clock would be sufficient
posted by stuartmm at 10:24 AM on July 8, 2004


oscillating fan.
posted by zpousman at 10:43 AM on July 8, 2004


According to this, motion detectors look "for a fairly rapid change in the amount of infrared energy." Thus an oscillating fan by itself would not do the job unless it is blowing heated air. Maybe put a space heater behind it? That might make your office uncomfortably warm, though.

Maybe you could correct the problem of the motion detector's limited field of view by putting a big fresnel lens in front of it.
posted by profwhat at 11:20 AM on July 8, 2004


Strobe light?

How about a light activated by a light sensor?

Light sensor activates light 1.
Light 1's heat/light activate Light 2.
Light 1 goes out.
Light 2 goes out after a few minutes.
Repeat.

Have you checked the motion detector to see if there's a way to disable it?
posted by alphanerd at 11:25 AM on July 8, 2004


I still like the desk lamp idea myself, candles are nice too...
posted by zeoslap at 11:31 AM on July 8, 2004


When I worked at a pizza phone center, I built a mobile out of dowels, string and various sizes of salad containers - I thought it was a clever training aid. Well, it triggered the motion detector, and thus the security alarm that night after we left.

So I'd suggest building (or buying) a mobile and hanging it by the detector. Hopefully you'll get enough air currents to keep it moving.
posted by O9scar at 11:36 AM on July 8, 2004


Buy a clock with a pendulum. Heck, I imagine that any clock mechanism in close proximity that has been altered to wave something will work just fine.
posted by plinth at 11:56 AM on July 8, 2004


Unless the thing that's moving is hot/warm it won't trigger the detector.
posted by zeoslap at 1:20 PM on July 8, 2004


If it's NOT triggered by heat, the fan with a streamer (wind sock?) of some sort in front of it should work.
posted by deborah at 2:26 PM on July 8, 2004


Just a thought, and maybe you haven't yet tried it. Many of the motion sensor switches have a 'constant on' feature that is triggered by a series of toggles. The most common toggle sequence is, when the light comes on automatically, turn it off for a count of three and then turn it back on. This will send a 'stay on' command to the controller chip. Try it. You may luck out. Barring that, it would be simple to replace the switch with one of the manual variety. The logical argument is that the automatic switch has a negative impact on your productivity (or whatever). Good luck.

Oh, and my file cabinet blocks my switch, too =/
posted by Lynsey at 3:19 PM on July 8, 2004


Hire a bathroom monkey and have him amble about the office every so often. Disposable, even.
posted by josephtate at 12:31 AM on July 9, 2004


See, it doesn't necessarily need to be hot, zeoslap, because we're not certain that this particular sensor is an infrared detector. Not all are -- like the ones in pzarquon's office bathroom, apparently. And yeah, an desk lamp would be the practical solution. But all truth told, I'm a full-time grad student (with a grad student income, and the mindset that goes with that), so I'd rather not be throwing money at this problem, even if it's only $20-$25. Hence the desire for some sort of creative solution that doesn't require me to purchase anything. Because if I'm buying a gizmo, I may as well be buying a lamp. I'm gonna try Lynsey's trick today. Hopefully that works. If not, maybe today's the day that the building tech arrives...
posted by .kobayashi. at 7:57 AM on July 9, 2004


Bathroom sensors are usually hooked up to a simple magnetic reed switch in the door, so you open the door and the light goes on. The ones you can wave at to switch on are infrared.

Anyway what solution did you come up with ?
posted by zeoslap at 7:16 AM on July 16, 2004


No solution yet. It's getting quite annoying. I'm rather close to buying a lamp.
posted by .kobayashi. at 8:56 PM on July 17, 2004


« Older I'm learning JavaScript for a ...   |  Who is your daddy and what doe... Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.