Supporting safe nocturnal activity within cities invariably requires more light, but critics may deride the additional costs associated with infrastructure and resources. Particularly within an urban environments, temporary solutions are often more preferable, as it doesn’t permanently alter the character of a space from day to night. Whether projecting virtual bike lanes onto any city street or transforming a town square into a soccer pitch, new lighting technology illustrates our growing ability to change our surroundings to meet an evolving set of needs. The flexibility built into these solutions preserve the autonomy of public spaces, while allowing people to enjoy nighttime activities in unexpected, and safer ways.
In a trend we are calling Bound By Light, PSFK Labs has identified several ways in which designers are exploring the use of light as a substitute for physical boundaries, helping to change the way people perceive their surroundings. These solutions work to demarcate new areas on demand, creating flexible environments which can accommodate different use cases and be redefined according to situation.
One example of this is XFire‘s lighting system that makes bikers more visible to traffic, enabling safer nighttime commutes. The XFire Bike Lane is a safety light that includes the usual flashing red LED lights, but is also equipped with two red lasers. The lasers project onto the road to create an instant bike lane that is visible over a mile away and is clear under headlights and streetlights. The handy gadget is weather- and shock-proof and easily attaches to any bike.
In an interview with PBS’s Egg, The Arts Show, light artist James Turrell explains, “through light, space can be formed without physical material like concrete or steel. We can actually stop vision and the penetration of vision with where light is and where it isn’t.”
In another example of this trend, sportswear company Nike paired with Spanish digital agency Doubleyou to offer soccer players around the world the ability to play anywhere at night with a laser-projected soccer field. Using a dedicated app, soccer players could request a visit from the company’s laser-equipped van. The van’s specialized crane would be raised above an open area of space to project the digital soccer field onto the urban landscape, transforming the area into a venue for hosting a game of soccer. The initiative provided kids and teenagers without access to the right facilities a dedicated space to play even at night.
The projected soccer field and Xfire bike lane point to the novel ways in which light can be used to redefine a space on demand to enable everything from nocturnal play to safer commutes. Similarly we may expect to see crosswalks and other city infrastructure light up and change color when pedestrians have the right of way, adding an additional layer of safety.
These examples also fall under a larger theme we are calling Enlightened Communication, which explores solutions that investigate the way light can be used as a communication tool, either visually conveying information through color, design and frequency or as a medium for transmitting data over distances.
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.