Lighting Solutions React To Become More Personal [Future of Light]

Lighting solutions that react to proximity are creating a more personalized, intuitive link to people and their environments.

What would it look like if the lighting around you began reacting simply to your presence or touch? Could it improve your day-to-day experience and what opportunities might that present?

As a way to experiment with potential scenarios, artists and designers are re-imagining the way that sensor-laden technology can blend into the backdrop of our everyday lives inside our homes and within the world around us. When tethered to connected lighting, this same thinking  can be applied to environmental challenges like efficiency and pollution with implications that extend far beyond how we experience a place, helping reduce energy usage and in certain instances, and even preserving natural habitats.

In a trend we are calling Responsive Environments, PSFK Labs looks at how individual products and networked installations and systems are reacting to a person’s presence to provide on-demand illumination and often, tailored lighting experiences.

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One example of this trend is Richmond Park in London, which has installed a LumiMotion lighting system to protect the park’s bat population. Environmentalists estimated that bat population was in danger of leaving the park altogether due to light spill from the old metal and concrete lighting fixtures. Installing the Philips LumiMotion lighting system in the park created a detector, control device, and communicator between lights. The system is able to detect when a person approaches a light at night and increases brightness accordingly, and then communicate with the next two lights to brighten up as well. After the person passes, the lights decrease in intensity, thus curbing light spill, saving energy, and above all, reducing the adverse effects of light on the bats.

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Rogier van der Heide, Vice President and Chief Design Officer at Philips Lighting, believes that we can expect to see more of these sensor-based solutions within urban environments.

I think a lot of cities will want to start with sensor-based solutions, because they save a lot of energy. There are the opportunities to save and just to be smarter about your illumination of your city, and to preserve darkness, which I think also is an important aspect of dealing in a respectful way with the environment. It makes the city a better place.”

inaho lighting exhibit

In another example of this trend, INAHO is an array of freestanding LED bulbs shaped like golden ears of rice, which glows and gently leans towards people as they approach it. INAHO, which means “ear of rice” in Japanese, is composed of LEDs encased in golden tubes fixed to the end of three-millimeter-wide carbon fiber columns that imitate rice stems. Tiny perforations in the tubes distribute the light into a smattering of blurry dots reminiscent of a rice paddy field, while movement sensors within the base of each stem direct the golden tips in the direction of passing people. The installation’s creators Hideki Yoshimoto and Yoshinaka Ono of tangent: studio wanted to create the impression of golden ears of rice slowly swaying in the wind. Yoshimoto says:

Nature has been evolving slowly for a long period of time and its form and behaviour is absolutely rational and convincing, and so beautiful. On top of that, particularly we Japanese have been feeling spirituality towards nature from ancient times, and therefore, introducing natural inspiration into an artifact means, for us, bringing the spirituality or poeticness of it to our urban life space.

Technologies like INAHO and LumiMotion 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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