Illuminating The Shared Connections Between People [Future of Light]

Illuminating The Shared Connections Between People [Future of Light]

Lighting displays are being creatively deployed to evoke an emotional response.

  • 22 september 2013

Does lighting have the capacity to embody an existing emotional connection? Could it be used to forge new ones? In a trend we are calling Remotely Connected, PSFK Labs found that synced lighting experiences are helping highlight the relationships between people. We’re seeing a range of interesting experience that are leveraging light’s capacity to draw people to it and tell a unique story which connects people in meaningful ways. Susanne Seitinger, City Innovations Manager for Philips Color Kinetics, tells us that “The interactive aspect of light can set up relationships between you, the infrastructure, the space and other people.”


An example of this trend is an LED engagement ring designed by engineer Ben Kokes that glows when the wearer’s fiancée is nearby. The handmade ring is embedded with an LED and copper coil assembly, which illuminates the ring from inside when it gets within the proximity of an induced alternating magnetic field, a device Kokes refers to as ‘the transmitter,’ which can be worn as an armband. According to Kokes, the original plan was to present the ring to his fiancée and then go to a professional jeweler to get something more permanent, but his fiancée insisted on changing the design of the ring to make it a more permanent part of their lives together.

We asked Brett Renfer, Senior Technologist at the LAB at Rockwell Group, about what begins to happen when lighting connects to people on a more emotional level. He told us:

When it becomes something you have like a beacon that’s connecting you to a loved one or to a friend or to an event that’s happening, you start to understand it and have an empathetic reaction. It’s interesting to think about how that can scale from a personal to a citywide level.


Another example of this trend is the Heineken Ignite project, which uses LEDs and wireless sensors to convert seemingly ordinary beer bottles into an interactive lighting display. Heineken developed the Ignite project as part of an experiment to enhance the social interaction of beer drinking using modern technology. Each ‘smart bottle’ lights up thanks to a 3D-printed housing that attaches to the bottom, concealing the electronic components inside. When clinking two of the bottles together for a toast, the LEDs light up simultaneously, while taking a drink makes them flicker rapidly. The lights can also be controlled remotely to match them up with a musical beat, turning a party into a synchronized light show. Setting a bottle down for a moment will also trigger a sleep mode, where it slowly dims until it is picked up again.


Remotely Connected lighting technologies like the Heineken Ignite Project and the LED engagement ring are helping evoke emotional responses between people. Imagine a hospital/home lighting solution that could react to patient status and connect with lighting at a family member’s home or synced bracelets that light up at networking events to indicate shared interests between attendees.

These examples fall under the larger theme we’re calling Luminous Relationships, which explores how lighting designs can trigger positive emotional responses, changing a person’s relationship with their friends and family, their surroundings and even the products that occupy their lives.

The Future of Light series explores light’s potential to improve lives, build communities, and connect people in new and meaningful ways. Brought to you in partnership with Philips Lighting, a full report is available as an iOS and Android app or as a downloadable PDF.


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