Lighting that Adapts to You

The luminance and temperature of a room has a huge impact on how people perceive and experience an environment.



a number of different hand sketches of lamps

As I am writing this post, I am sitting in my regular coffee shop, sipping Flat Whites and listening to the sound of Scott Hamilton buzzing in the air. The room is mainly lit by candles, and only a few warm lights hang over the tables.

I get a feeling of being relaxed and in a way, that still spurs creativity in the form of writing. If I were to place myself in a brightly lit room, my creativity regarding designing and the more technical sciences, like software development, thrives.

Both situations have their up and down sides. Spending a prolonged amount of time in a dimly lighted room has a tendency to deplete my energy, leaving me sleepy. While spending time in a brightly lighted environment with lots of white surfaces gives me inhuman-like productivity, I will get burned out it not careful.

What I am getting at is that lighting should adapt to what is going on in the environment. The lamp should know the setting of the room, the distance to surfaces, the ambient lighting in the room and what people are doing, and it should be able to adapt based on these parameters.

I got the inspiration for this project a few years ago, when studying Computer Science. I was studying in the mathematics library where the lighting was dim and the colours dark. I experienced myself getting tired and unmotivated calculating running times for algorithms.

At the time, I didn't possess a sufficient knowledge of electronics to execute this project, so I dismissed the idea thinking someone else might solve the problem for me. Now, three years later, no one has attempted it.

Pursuing a BEng in interaction design, I am taught electronics and AVR development. During one of my study sessions, something I read about shift registers, brought back the idea I had years ago. Taking a break from studying, I started browsing the web to see if anyone had created what I wanted.

Now was the time to follow through on the idea —  no more studying was done that night.

Having never done a project like this, I started at the very top — writing a statement, saying what the product should solve.

Design a suspended lamp that senses the environment and behaves accordingly.

Knowing the problem I want to solve is the best way to start my project. With a general sense of direction, I started researching what made up a lamp and what properties needs to be considered when creating your own.

One of the most important properties to consider when looking at lighting, is the color temperature — how warm the light is. It is critical that the lamp can change the temperature of the light it is emitting, depending on what is happening in the environment, in which it is placed. It should be able to sense the proximity to surrounding surfaces and their reflectiveness, so it can change the intensity of the light.

Sensing the feeling of a room is a vital part of the success of this project. The lamp will have to know how many people are in the room? What are they doing? Is there music? What kind of music? There are many more questions that it will have to answer, answers that will make or break the usefulness of the product.