I collaborated with Andre Salyer to test new lighting scenarios for commercial spaces. In roughly two weeks, we researched, designed and built a scale model office and lighting array. This served as a platform to test adaptive lighting scenarios. Andre lead design of the model and I lead the lighting array and development. The final prototype won 1st place, Gizmos Competition UW 2016 Maker Summit.
Drop ceiling lighting is both ubiquitous and unsightly. With high rise buildings and public spaces regularly being renovated for modern use, architecture firms and the institutions they serve are seeking new lighting solutions that can work with existing infrastructure.
LED lighting is quickly becoming a more affordable, more energy efficient alternative to fluorescent lighting. As we will prove out with our prototype and user testing, an LED array has the flexibility to provide a much wider selection of lighting scenarios, including more natural, humanistic lighting and special case lighting for emergencies. Companies such as Philips are looking at OLED technology that can make a light as thin as a sheet of paper that can bend - opening up a whole new world of potential smart lighting and smart ceilings. Our prototype is intended to be a first step towards this new technology.
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Before we had decided to focus on conventional fluorescent-box lighting, we generally knew we wanted to explore the realm of lights. We began by creating 2x2 matrices to find interesting new problem areas. The first explores matrix explores notions of portability. Is this something you carry on your person, plug in and occasionally move, or is it completely stationary?
This second matrix compares size and innovation. Fluorescent-box-lighting stood out as something that was ubiquitous yet ugly. We began to get excited about the idea of innovating a problem space that would have wide application.
Refinement & Planning
Knowing that we wanted to improve on conventional fluorescent-box lighting, we decided it would be best to build a scale model to prototype solutions. A full scale prototype would have been ideal but was out of scope for the time frame of the project. Here are some ideas I sketched for a model that could be used to test initial ideas and assumptions.
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The first step was to build a model in Rhino, this model was then used for part-planning.
Sheets of acrylic were laser cut, then glued together using a bonding solution.
LED strips were hand soldered into a single array of 9 x 5 (45 all together).
The array was then added to the model.
…and connected to our software platform via the Fadecandy breakout board.
A Fadecandy library was tweaked and used to run video on the lighting array.
The GUI for selecting videos was hand built.
Videos for controlling individual LEDs were built in After Effects.
Lighting scenarios were tested with placeholder furniture.
Once we were confident in the lighting scenarios, we continued to improve the fidelity of the model with 3D printed furniture.
…and put finishing touches on the outside of the model…
…for presentation at the Marker Space Salon.
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This project was presented at two design salons on University of Washington campus. The first was to the Design Use Build (DUB) community at the University of Washington Comotion Maker space along side other MHCI+D and Human-Centered Design and Engineering students. The second was the Area 01 Maker Summit, a yearly design competition at UW where we received first place for “Best Gizmo”. Engineers at Boeing remarked that this type of lighting could have a beneficial impact for long-distance travel, such as international flights or space travel. Many other mentioned the potential for smaller-scale commercial applications.
Next Steps & Future Work
Our physical prototype was focused on lighting public spaces with drop ceiling lighting, however we can imagine a myriad of future applications- including warehouses, large department stores, outdoor covered platforms (such as that found at airports), and long-distance travel. This design could also be scaled down to a more personal, consumer level device that could be placed in a room of a house without the need for costly installation.
Another area of potential work is in creating the user interface for controlling the array - this would including a wall-mounted device (similar to nest) as well as a web-based interface where customers could create and share custom lighting scenarios.