Unlike almost everything we’ve covered since starting Backstage as a personal blog of things iLounge’s editors wanted to share, Yantouch’s new JellyWash+ ($150) isn’t specifically related to computers, Apple products, video games, or the like. We only discovered it hidden within the small Taiwanese company’s 2011 CES booth because we remembered after seeing the Black Diamond 3D Dock for iPhone that Yantouch’s web site was populated mostly by intriguing lamps. But once we’d experienced JellyWash+ in person, we were literally transfixed—there was something about this new lamp that felt like we were glimpsing the future of home decor, or at least, a piece of it, and each of us was ready to purchase one immediately. Right now. Please.
Yes, JellyWash+ could really use a new name. It’s the latest generation version of a product line that started with JellyFish, JellyFish Black, and JellyDice, the first two winners of the Reddot Design Award for what was originally a luminescent jellyfish-inspired shape and lighting idea. Using a very similar shell to JellyWash+, JellyFish (€135) and JellyFish Black (€99) stand up on reclines, projecting a claimed 16 million colors (generally one at a time) through a frosted translucent front shell that’s filled with concentric circular patterns of LED lights. A touch-sensitive box on the front of each unit lets you control saturation, intensity, and either solid or rainbow color shifting.
JellyDice (€69) drops the stand, the price, and the broad array of colors in favor of a 120,000-color LED system that plays dice and roulette games using the touch panel. We can’t speak to the other two, but we briefly saw JellyFish Black (above) at the booth, and though it was very cool, it felt like it was just missing something—a neat novelty, but not a game-changing invention.
That’s probably because we’d seen JellyWash+ first. Measuring roughly 9” in diameter, this deluxe version dispenses with the touch panel entirely in favor of gesture controls. It has 50% more LED lights inside than the most powerful JellyFish, and puts out a ton of light; at full power, it’s bright enough to seem nearly piercing in a reasonably well-lit room. This time, the rear shell is chrome rather than black or white, and there’s a speaker inside that vents through holes near the rear power port. It is so close to gorgeous that it’s hard to describe as just a lamp, only modestly marred by the presence of a large bird-and-tree logo at the center, three smaller icons, and some internal molding lines that can be seen through edges of the frosted white face. These are small issues that could easily be remedied in an updated unit. Read on (click “Read more” or the title of this article) for more photos and details.
Those three small icons are indicators of where JellyWash+‘s gesture controls are located. Hold your hand over the unit’s top to switch between fixed color (“mono”) and color-shifting (“flow”) modes, the latter indicated by a quick flash of the lights to display a rainbow array that we wish would persist in its own mode. Depending on whether you’re in mono or flow mode, the left and right icons individually control brightness, flow speed, and saturation, working together to activate alarm, timer, and sound effect features. Though the controls are super easy to use in the sense that you just wave your hand over the unit’s face to activate them, the individual and combined features of the buttons aren’t at all intuitive; it feels like magic, complete with the need to learn spells, when you see everything being demonstrated for the first time.
JellyWash+‘s payoffs are indeed magical. Even before Yantouch described the product’s potential to change bedroom lighting, particularly for parents of children who didn’t want to be limited to having their walls painted just one color, our heads were dancing with visions of these colorful lights shifting the looks of rooms and the moods of their inhabitants. At nighttime, a red bedroom, while daylight brings a blue or green one. And so on. The company includes a sleep timer that can gradually dim the system in 5 to 35 minutes, transforming the face into a clock-like circle just long enough to set your chosen duration. A wake timer will gradually use the oranges and yellows of the sun to stir you gently out of bed in the morning, shifting to blue thereafter, with 30 minute to 12 hour activation settings.
Yantouch’s bird and tree logo is a reference to these features. Humorously blaming lightbulb inventor Thomas Edison for “more sleepless nights than any other person,” the company suggests that being lulled to sleep or awakened from it with natural colors and sounds is what the earth intended for people; JellyWash+ can either stay silent or play gradually increasing chirping bird sounds in the morning, with crickets in the night, and a zen meditation water in cave dripping sound during the day. Muting the system is as easy as briefly holding one’s hands above the left and right gesture sensors at the same time; turning audio on leads to magical twinkling sounds when you use the controls. The lack of volume controls may compel you to mute the audio even when you might otherwise enjoy having it running in the background.
Considering what a completely unique little device JellyWash+ is, and how well it works in most regards, it’s hard to criticize as anything other than a revolutionary new product—something that will surely have more impact over time than the company’s neat but device-obscuring Black Diamond iPhone Dock, which as noted above also made a CES debut this year. That said, there are ways that JellyWash+ could be better: the controls could be more intuitive and perhaps more numerous to accommodate volume changes, the labeling and iconography should be more subtle, and the top plastic needs just a little more polish inside to obscure the interior edges. The JellyWash+ name could benefit from replacement, too. Lightwave or Afterglow, maybe?
Oh, and there’s one more thing. Yantouch needs to get these things—and their forthcoming iPhone-controlled sequels—in more stores right away. The line of people waiting to buy these things starts here, and we can’t wait to get our hands on more of this cool new lighting technology.