Mapping The Physical Qualities Of Sound With Light [Future of Light]

Mapping The Physical Qualities Of Sound With Light [Future of Light]

Designers are utilizing light and sound to bring people together around shared, interactive experiences.

  • 29 september 2013

If you could visually represent sound, what would it look like and what could it reveal? While translating sound into tangible form seems like the domain of science fiction, technologies that are capable of syncing sound with light demonstrate the possibilities for doing just that. In a trend we are calling Sound Syncing, PSFK Labs draws attention to lighting installations that convert audio cues into vibrant lighting displays, enabling people to experience the sound in entirely new ways. Ed Crawford, CEO of Philips Lighting, notes “LEDs brought the birth of controllability [that goes further] than dimming – whether that’s color, or using an app to make the lights react to music, or setting your iPhone clock so that you can wake to the lights coming on in your room.”


In a throwback to the age of disco, Ambify is a mobile application that syncs with the Hue bulb from Philips to react music being played and create dynamic in-room visuals in nearly infinite color combinations. The app employs an algorithm that analyzes and visualizes the music that is playing, thereby causing the color, brightness, and intensity of the Hue bulbs to change. The app builds on the Hue bulb’s existing web capabilities which allows users to remotely control their lighting from a mobile application and create up to 16 million different color combinations. The Hue starter kit contains three bulbs that are able to fit into any standard socket, and a bridge that connects them through wireless routers.

Watch Ambify in action here.


The Murmur installation introduces a similar capacity for controllability, this time via the human voice. It lets visitors interact with an LED light wall by simulating the movement of sound waves. The installation was created in partnership between four French design studios as a way to enable passersby to communicate with their surroundings by collecting the ‘murmurs’ of the public and translating them into light. The sounds are captured by device called the ‘Echo Chamber,’ in reference to the audio effect achieved. The project results in an unconventional dialogue that bridges the physical and virtual worlds, combining the four disciplines of visual design, object design, sound design, and programming.

See a video about the installation below:

Sound and light installations like Ambify and Murmur point to the novel ways that light can be synced with sound in revelatory and potentially useful ways. Down the road, we may see lighting outside of bars, and other public areas capable of respond ing to  indicate if noise has gone above a certain decibel levels outside certain hours.

These examples 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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