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How do long distance light up pillows work?

How do long distance light up pillows work?

Long distance light up pillows allow people in different locations to send each other affectionate messages through subtle light signals. When you touch your pillow, your partner’s pillow lights up, and vice versa. This allows couples in long distance relationships to feel connected even when they are physically apart. The technology behind these pillows is clever yet relatively simple, relying on internet connectivity and embedded sensors to enable real-time communication. In this article, we’ll look at how these pillows work and the components that allow them to transmit light signals across any distance.


At the heart of a long distance light up pillow is a grid of sensors sewn into the fabric. These sensors detect pressure, so when you rest your head on the pillow or squeeze it, the change in pressure is picked up by the sensors. There may be dozens or even hundreds of individual sensors in a single pillow to allow it to detect touches across its entire surface. The sensors are thin and flexible so they can be incorporated seamlessly into the pillow filling without affecting comfort.

Common sensor types found in light up pillows include:

  • Force sensitive resistors (FSRs) – strips of plastic or polymer that change resistance when flexed
  • Capacitive sensors – detects changes in capacitance caused by touch
  • Piezoelectric sensors – generates voltage when strained or compressed

The type of sensor isn’t as important as having a grid dense enough to register touches across the entire surface of the pillow. When you squeeze any part of your pillow, enough sensor dots should light up for the pillow to recognize it as a purposeful touch.


The sensors in the pillow connect to a small embedded microcontroller board. This acts as the pillow’s “brain”, processing the sensory input and controlling the LED lights. When the sensors detect a touch, they communicate that data to the microcontroller via tiny wires sewn through the pillow fabric.

The microcontroller contains software logic to interpret different sensory patterns and light up the LEDs accordingly. For example, quickly squeezing the pillow in a particular spot may trigger a special animation pattern. The microcontroller is also responsible for connecting to the internet to facilitate communication between pillows.

Common microcontrollers used in light up pillows include:

  • Arduino – open source development boards popular for DIY projects
  • Raspberry Pi – tiny single board computers capable of running Linux
  • ESP8266 – low cost WiFi-enabled microcontrollers
  • ATmega – family of microcontrollers including the popular ATmega328P used in Arduino boards

The microcontroller allows each pillow to function as an intelligent, programmable device instead of just a passive fabric shell.

LED lights

LED strips or grids are sewn into the pillow to provide the visible light effects. When the microcontroller detects and processes a touch activation, it signals the LEDs to light up. A strip of just a few ultra-bright RGB LEDs is enough to illuminate an entire pillow.

Some common LED types used in light up pillows:

  • WS2812B – smart addressable LED strips, allow control of each LED color independently
  • APA102 – similar to WS2812B but with higher bandwidth for faster animation
  • 5050 SMD – classic ribbon style LED strips, cheap and bright but cannot be individually controlled

The LED grids can display patterns, animations, colors, and brightness levels to match the touch interaction detected on the pillow. For example, a gentle press may cause a slow ripple of colors, while a firm squeeze generates a bright flash.


For the pillows to communicate, they need constant internet connectivity to transmit touch data between locations. This is typically achieved using WiFi networking built into the microcontroller board. For example, the ESP8266 microcontroller contains integrated 802.11b/g/n WiFi.

When the pillow’s sensors detect a touch, the data is packaged up and sent to the cloud server over the internet via the WiFi connection. The server then relays the message to the paired pillow to trigger its LED lights. This all happens nearly instantly, allowing the two pillows to seem directly connected.

Most pillows connect to apps over Bluetooth when pairing the pillows initially and configuring settings. However the main long distance communication still happens peer-to-peer between the pillows via internet networking.

Power supply

Obviously the electronics inside an interactive pillow need power. Batteries would quickly run out, so most long distance pillows use AC power adapters. The power bricks plug into a USB port inside the pillow to supply 5V or 12V DC to the LEDs and microcontroller board.

Some available power supply options:

  • AC adapter plugged into wall outlet
  • Power bank supplying USB power
  • USB power cable connected to computer
  • Permanently wired USB inside pillow

With a continuous power supply, the pillow can stay on 24/7. This allows instant touch response at any time when the paired pillow is activated.

Cloud infrastructure

Behind the scenes, cloud infrastructure keeps the pillow network humming along. Cloud servers handle user accounts, pair pillows together, and transmit touch data between them. The exact architecture varies by pillow brand but typically includes:

  • Database servers – stores user account data
  • Web/API servers – manage pairing and transmit messages
  • Authentication servers – secure logins and encryption
  • Push notification servers – send activation alerts to apps
  • Load balancers – distribute traffic across servers

The cloud platform also provides backend management tools for tracking usage metrics, monitoring heartbeats from pillow devices, handling firmware updates, and applying security patches.

Robust cloud infrastructure keeps the pillow communication reliable and snappy while remaining scalable, allowing the system to handle growing numbers of pillows and users.


Producing interactive pillows requires some special manufacturing processes to integrate the electronics. Steps typically include:

  • Cutting pillow fabric shapes
  • Printing or embroidering pillow covers
  • Sewing fabric pieces into a shell
  • Stuffing pillow with filling
  • Embedding LED grid and sensors into filling
  • Inserting and connecting a microcontroller board
  • Connecting to power supply
  • Testing assembly
  • Packaging pillow

The process combines traditional fabric crafting techniques with precise steps to install the electronic components and electrical connections. The result is a soft, huggable pillow embedded with hidden technology to enable the interactive lighting features.

UX design

Good user experience design is crucial for intuitive, engaging pillow interactions. UX considerations include:

  • Making light activations feel magical
  • Designing intuitive touch patterns
  • Implementing easy setup workflows
  • Optimizing pairing and connectivity
  • Creating compelling companion apps
  • Adding delight with audio, haptics, etc

UX design starts long before manufacturing, prototyping interactions and apps to find the right mix of features and interfaces. The UX work continues through iterations based on user testing and feedback. Seamless, emotionally resonant UX takes these pillows beyond novelty gimmicks into relationship-enhancing products.

Data Privacy

To function, these pillows must transmit certain data over the internet to the product servers. This includes account login details, pillow pairing connections, sensor touch data, etc. Responsible companies will clearly disclose their data collection practices and implement strong data protection:

  • Communicating what data is gathered and why
  • Anonymizing data when possible
  • Encrypting data transmission and storage
  • Restricting employee data access
  • Securing servers against attacks
  • Destroying data when no longer needed

Following best practices for data privacy helps maintain user trust. Users should feel confident their sensitive relationship communications are kept secure.

Business model

For companies selling these pillows, potential business models include:

  • Retail sales – sell pillows directly to consumers via online/offline channels
  • Subscriptions – recurring fees for continued use of pillow services
  • Partnerships – co-brand and sell pillows with other companies
  • Data monetization – analyze usage data and market insights
  • Licensing – license patented technology to other pillow vendors

Various pricing strategies can appeal to different consumer segments, from high-end luxurious pillows as gifts down to budget-friendly basic versions.

Ongoing revenue streams are possible from subscriptions or data insights, but the core business remains driven by pillow unit sales.


Long distance relationship pillows leverage simple sensors, lighting, and connectivity to facilitate real-time tactile communication. Thoughtful product design and user experience considerations transform these components into an emotionally resonant platform for helping separated partners feel close. While the technology itself is straightforward, the end result is a deeply meaningful new medium for conveying affection over any distance.