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Continuing with ideas...

Well, I guess I'll comment on other people's ideas here and then put some other ideas as well:

•Matt's idea of using a LV-EZ1 ultrasonic rangefinder: It looks like a pretty good idea to me for sensing human movement near the couch. Each one is only $25 (of which we'd probably only want one or MAYBE two), they could be very easily implemented with an ADC in the uC seeing as their output is just 10mV/in the object is away. We could use them to tell if people are moving towards or away from the couch from either direction and change the couch's mood or other response accordingly.

•Phototransistor: It could also be a good idea, but in my mind, more for short-range to see if someone is sitting on the seat blocking the light it should receive. Mounting it could be an issue. It uses reflected IR light, but the couch may block that, or at least make it tough to use. If used we were to use something like this, we may have to put holes in the couch to mount them (probably not a great idea).

•Jason’s PIR sensor might have the same issue as it uses IR light as well. However, we will probably end up having to mount at least a few things through the couch that use light like this. And the PIR sensors would be especially easy to implement since they can just use digit GPIO pins as inputs to the uC.

•Fiber optics: At least looking around on www.fiberopticproducts.com, it seems like the cabling to do the fiber-optics is relatively inexpensive, but the light units to produce the light can be very expensive (we’re talking in the range of hundreds of dollars). If we can find a cheaper light source and a good way to secure the fiber to the inner couch surface, perhaps a little epoxy or something, we could possibly work with this.

•Fluorescent lighting: This is another possibility to explore once we have the couch since using fluorescent lighting, we could potentially mount a small number of these inside, flip a relay to power the lights of a certain color, and light the whole couch one color (or multiple colors depending on how they’re placed) pretty evenly. Again, we’d have to see how fluorescent lights look inside of it once we have it. Also, there is a delay with them turning on that could be problematic. But one cool idea is maybe putting a few black lights inside of it for fun.

•Clustering: Keith mentioned one type of “clustering? being the clustering of LEDs. Another kind of clustering that we could do for controlling the LEDs or other systems in the couch is basically have a different microcontroller control a different section of the couch. If we just ordered a bunch of samples, this would still be fairly cheap, and we could save a LOT of wire by doing this. Plus it would probably look a lot cleaner when we’re done.

•Prototyping boards: With the idea above about clustering, we’d have to think about whether we want to get demo boards for each cluster or just get a prototyping board and solder parts to it. Personally, I’d say all we’d need is the proto-boards, which I found one here that is pretty cheap and probably about the right size - http://www.sparkfun.com/commerce/product_info.php?products_id=129 for a small $2.95 one.

•It’s been a while since anyone mentioned anything like this, but I remember a couple people saying something about how we could have it query some kind of a web server to get weather information. I have a feeling if we tried to do anything even close to this, we’d end up just spending a bunch of time and money and end up with nothing. I don’t mean to smash anyone’s dreams, so if it’s a lot easier than I’m thinking, great.

So that's what I've got for the time being. I'll keep looking into stuff and post new things or improvements on other ideas I find.