Ephemeral Lighting Acts As A Pathway To Sustained Human Interaction [Future of Light]

Ephemeral Lighting Acts As A Pathway To Sustained Human Interaction [Future of Light]

Intuitive interfaces synced with light are lowering the barrier to engagement and creating novel ways for people to interact with a space.

  • 29 september 2013

The impulse to create something you can call your own is undeniably powerful. From cave painting to digital art, humans have been leaving their indelible mark since the very beginning – only the medium has changed. Light rendering technologies challenge the permanence of the images we create, but the wonder they induce is anything but forgettable. These innovations invite us to witness the effects of our own physical actions, even if they fade from view.

In a trend we are calling Light Painting, PSFK Labs has noticed that technologies are tracking people’s ephemeral gestures and translating them into graphic images of light. These installations are lowering the barrier to engagement through intuitive interfaces which instantly respond to user movements, allowing anyone to playfully experiment and create a desired outcome. Brett Renfer, Senior Technologist at Rockwell Group, expands on this point, telling us, “I think light painting is something amazing to think about because it’s at a human scale. It’s this push and pull of building around someone’s natural interaction.”


One example of this trend is the Water Light Graffiti project, an interactive  installation that features a wall of LEDs that light up when sprayed with water. Created by Antonin Fourneau working in collaboration with Parisian Digitalarti Artlab, the wall is made up of thousands of LED lights that were engineered to turn on when anything from a wet finger, brush or spray bottle is used to “paint” the surface. Artists can draw pictures, abstract shapes and words, resulting in beautiful glowing forms that disappear moments later. The art installation was set up in Poitiers, France, where passersby were encouraged to interact with the wall to create and share short-term artworks. “The origin of the click in my mind for the Water Light Graffiti Project was an old man in a park in China who drew on the ground with water,” says Fourneau, reinforcing Renfer’s point that light painting is primarily a human-scale activity.


In another example of the creative deployment of these technologies, You Fade To Light is an array of interactive OLEDs digitizing the shapes and movements of passersby in the lobby at the W Hotel in Tapei. The wall installation incorporates thousands of Philips’ OLEDs which interact with guests by changing shape, look and feel in sync with its surroundings. The project from creative studio rAndom International unlocks the creative potential of next generation OLED technology from Philips. The W Taipei showcased the cutting-edge design alongside a collection of design installations that bring to life the hotel’s concept of “nature electrified.”

Fade To Light and the Water Light Graffiti Project show how light painting technologies can draw people in and create impromptu engagement within different environments. Employed in a therapeutic setting, we can imagine light painting exercises being used to track patient progress, and encourage repetitive movements, while keeping the participants engaged.

Examples like You Fade To Light and the Water Light Graffiti also fall into a larger theme we are calling Illuminated Expression, which explores how scalable lighting technologies are making it possible for individuals, brands and entire cities to visually express their identity and imagination and communicate their vision to the wider community.

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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