Tech Tools: Social Spark

Winter 2019

Aura Spark
(Image: Will Kirk / Homewood Photography)

Breaking the ice socially in new groups is challenging for many people, but a new device promises to make that process easier.

Aura Spark is a wirelessly enhanced tech bracelet featuring lights that change color based on data delivered by smartphone and in response to other bracelets nearby, helping link people with common interests, experiences, and tastes.

“The device’s main function is to facilitate and promote the making of social connections and to literally illuminate the fact that we all have multiple things in common,” says inventor John Rattray, MS ’17, a doctoral candidate in electrical and computer engineering.

Rattray used 3D printers, custom-made printed circuit boards, and multiple programming languages to enable the device to connect via Bluetooth with a corresponding smartphone app.

Spark debuted at last fall’s undergraduate student orientation and was a hit, linking students based on answers to 15 questions that were provided prior to the event, such as: Would you rather live in a utopia as a normal person, or in a dystopia, but as a supreme ruler? Rattray envisions it being used at weddings, concerts, and sporting events. Imagine, for example, Spark lighting up for fans when their team scores a goal or a touchdown.