Residential Lighting: Why is daylight so important?
Steve Paolini: We humans need light to function at our peak performance. With the dawn of electronic lighting, we can now have what we really want — human-centric lighting, which in my view is daylight.
RL: Can we replicate daylight today?
SP: For blue sky, we have fluorescent troffers. Acting like the sun and giving us sharp shadows, we have reflector lamps, like MR16s or PAR38s. If we’re more sophisticated, we have gobos. All of these light sources imitate what the sky does with ambient light, direct light and movable light. There’s no reason not to have more of these features.
RL: How is your company involved?
SP: TeleLumen has started recording daylight. We use a spectrometer with something like 1,000 color channels. Played back in real time, daylight recordings look like nothing is happening. But when speeded up, you see that daylight is not static. It gets brighter in intensity, then dimmer. It gets warmer, then cooler, color temperature wise. Most electric lights remain in fixed states of intensity and color temperature. TeleLumen is working on the light players and on content creation. Long term, as light players come on line, we’ll license our light player technology and sell our content, maybe as iTunes does, to people who own light players.
RL: Will we ever see this in practice?
SP: It’s already happening. The Philips Hue and two lesser known products, called LIFX and iLumi, are color-choosable lamps that screw into standard sockets. They basically play back snapshots of daylight. You can take a picture of the sky with your iPhone and reproduce that color of the light with Hue, but it’s just a snapshot.
The next versions of these lamps will be more dynamic in their ability to play back more of the day’s worth of sunlight — or moonlight, or a candle flame. Their dynamic range will increase with time, and they’ll become integrated as light players. As with music and video players, you’ll pull up a daylight playlist on your phone. You’ll say, “I’d like to have sunset in Hawaii tonight for dinner.” Or “I want to wake up tomorrow morning by the sunrise on Mount Fuji” and, boom, it will play back on your lights.
You could have a lamp beside your bed that puts you to sleep and wakes you up. Or you could have a room with a number of these lamps, like a surround-sound home theater system. The lamps located in different places would provide both ambient and spot lighting and would work with a multitrack playback system. I can imagine people drinking a glass of wine or reading a book and playing back the lighting needed for that situation.
RL: How does this affect design?
SP: Light fixtures are evolving to conduct heat away rather than radiate heat. Cree makes some downlights and troffers that wick away heat through conduction out of the back of the fixture. So the shape of things is evolving first for technical reasons.
At the same time, lighting designers will make things more human-centric. There’s no reason why we can’t have a flat-panel light fixture that, like a TV, sits on the wall and plays back these illumination recordings. We could make big chunks of the ceiling glow with a light guide that holds LEDs at one end of a piece of plastic, which transfers light onto the surface of the plastic. I also think we’ll see more movable reflector-type lamps. Shadows will move across the floor during the day from interior lights that move. Only our imaginations, and our pocketbooks, limit what we can do.