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Design

Here's a Petaled Light That Responds to Human Movement

Patten Studio's 'Lift' imbues a lighting feature with organic-looking fluid movements.

by Kevin Holmes
Jan 9 2017, 2:20pm

Photo credit: Ty Cole

It's not your imagination, this clever strip of lighting really is moving when you do. That's the thought that no doubt might creep into people's minds when they come into contact with Lift, a new interactive light by designer James Patten and his team at Patten Studio. MIT Media Lab alumni Patten's latest prototype senses human movement and responds with an organic, flowing motion.

The first gen prototype is currently on display at SHoP Architects in NYC and features 24 petals attached to a spine which flutter and ripple like a glowing deep sea creature when someone walks by.

"We stand at the dawn of a huge shift in the field of interaction design," says Patten, "one where the dynamism of the digital world is embodied in the physical, where our everyday objects have even richer interactivity than today's smartphones, and where the built environment and interactive media become one and the same."

The light uses a low resolution thermal camera to detect and monitor how people are moving about, while an embedded microcontroller processes the data and radio links it to the petals, telling them how to move. To make the petal's motion appear more fluid and natural, the studio used the shape memory alloy, nitinol, or "muscle wire," which shrinks when heated. Electricity is sent through the wire, causing it to contract and the petals to lift—it also means no motors were needed, so the light is able to move in serene silence.

Photo credit: Ty Cole

"It challenges us to think about the design decisions we can make when we not only begin to incorporate materiality and physicality, but also raise our expectations of technology and imbue our spaces with some of the richness, nuance, and immediacy we experience in the natural world," notes Patten. "We often look at technology as something that separates—a couple sits at a restaurant looking at their phones instead of each other, mobile apps capture our attention with seemingly endless stimulation—but that behavior isn't inherent to technology. What we design today can and will have huge implications for tomorrow, shaping how we come to connect with those around us."

Photo credit: Ty Cole

Photo credit: Ty Cole

Find out more about the interactive design work of Patten Studio at their website here.

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