All dimensions, thousands of glowsticks, one hacked kinect, one LED projector and four must watch videos. This week we've got a special edition of Weekly Links, featuring inspirational videos that'll take your breathe away.

 

 

 

The MP3 Experiment, Light Festival edition

 

 


What does 4 dimensional light painting look like?

 

 


1 hacked Kinect, 1 LED projector, 1 super cool music video

 

 

 

Some seriously messy (do not try at home) chemoluminescence

 

 

Share a video of your own!

Follow me on Twitter: @cristinaferraz

 

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MoMA Talk to Me: Hi, A Real Human Interface | Photo credit: Multitouch Barcelona

 

Following the success of her last exhibit, "Design and the elastic mind," MoMA design and architecture curator, Paola Antonelli, has embarked again on another magnificent thought exercise in which she demonstrates again her willingness to stir up the thought community on how design can help shape the future.

 

"Talk to me" is a wonderful exhibition of around 200 products, gadgets, videos and games in which the relationship with people and objects is strengthened and taken to a further, deeper emotional level by means of technology.

 

Personally, this exhibition is very exciting to me as it highlights the enormous role of design when it comes to humanizing and making acceptable the increasing opportunities offered by technology. As our lives become inevitably more intertwined with technology, it is crucial to investigate how to make objects truly meaningful and avoid our own alienation from them. Exploring and learning how emotional bonds with this new generation of object paradigms are built is the Holy Grail. It is the quest to turn novelty and invention into truly innovative propositions that will be key in shaping our future lives.

 

Official site of the MoMA Talk to Me exhibit

 

For a thorough analysis of the exhibition and its implications, read Linda Tischler’s article on Fast Co Design.

 

For a snappy summary and a visual selection of the projects, read the Dezeen blog post

 

Lighting is not just about illumination, it also takes human perceptions and reactions into account. Lighting has a profound ability to ignite deep feelings in people and this unique ability can, and should, be nurtured.

 

After looking at those examples of technology-based objects in which the design perspective manages to achieve new emotional connections with users, how would you imagine this could happen with lighting technologies?

 

 

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MoMA Talk to Me: Augmented Shadow | Photo credit: Joon Y. Moon

Hello Friday!

 

This week, we've got some mind bending light illustrations, seriously wacky LEDs and an incredible time lapse video of Tokyo, with a twist!

 

 

A naturally occuring lightshow!

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[Boing Boing | Carlos Gutierrez]

It's not the first time we've featured an incredible natural light show, so beautiful!

 

 

Not your typical time lapse! Watch LED man take a stroll through Tokyo

 

 

Love the surreal? So do we!

Here are some light illustrations that'll make you do a double-take.

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[Behance | Tang Yau Hoong]

 

 

Unforgivable puns aside, would you really use this lamp?

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[Yank Design | Veneridesign]

 

Want to watch a video (coat)?

 

Share a link of your own!

Folllow me on Twitter: @cristinaferraz

 

 

To them, I said, the truth would be literally nothing but the shadows of the images.
Socrates dialogue with Glaucon, Plato, The Republic

 

The Theory of Form

The allegory of the cave is one of the most inspiring readings to get acquainted with design semiotics. In this beautiful metaphor, Socrates discusses with his disciple Glaucon the fundamentals of perception of reality and introduces to him the concepts of archetypes. In the dialogue, Socrates describes human knowledge of the world as the perception of shadows that a group of humans would see projected into a wall. Those humans, locked inside a cave, have those shadows as their only information about the inside world, and as shadows pass by, they began to ascribe forms to them. Those forms represent the knowledge of the material world, and are abstract representations of meanings.

 

With this metaphor, Plato introduced his Theory of Form. In his mind, all material in the universe has its original "mould”, which determines its existence, shape and behaviour. As humans, our perception of this is like the shadows on the wall: what we perceive is an imperfect, yet recognizable, version of the original mould. When we look at a dog, we know it is a dog because it has some traits that hint to us: it has four legs, a determined size range, a tail, a head. Yet, we are still able to recognize a dog even though it has three legs. Even though some of the "parts" of the dog's mould are not present, our perception allows for a range of variations of those parts, and their sum is our idea of a dog.

 

In design semiotics, there is a word for that original mould: archetype. Objects, as any other material substance, have their archetype, their abstract essence that allows the human mind to recognize its meaning, its function. A chair has its chair archetype: four legs, a seat, a backrest. A table has four legs and a tabletop. Most of the work done on design is based on exploring, refining and elaborating on those object archetypes.

 

The archetype of light

As an immaterial substance, though, the archetype of light had to borrow other embodiments over time in order to populate humans’ imagery. First, light meant a fireplace, the sun. Then it became candles, luminaries, gas lighting. Electric lighting inventions in the 20th century gave us our most recent archetypes: the bulb. Nowadays, there are two main archetypes that come up to contemporary minds: the bulb, and the lamp or luminaries, with a base, a wire, a light source and perhaps a shade.

 

Light, however, is broader that those archetypes. The phenomenon of light has been dominated in the past century by thermal processes: light sources that emitted light because of being heated. From the sun and the stars to incandescent and halogen lamps, without forgetting flames, all of those sources are thermal: they emit light because they are at a given temperature that causes them to emit blackbody radiation, therefore light. There are other ways to generate light though. Luminescent light sources rely on other principles rather than heat: cold body radiation. The world is populated with such examples, especially in the animal world. Recent developments in lighting based also in cold body radiation, such as LEDs, are based on other principles not so close to the popular imagery of a flame, a bulb or a luminary.

 

New technologies in lighting are pulled by the need of finding a more efficient light source than thermal, since the latter transforms a higher percentage of the energy input into heat that gets dissipated into the atmosphere, and not light. LEDs and OLED sources are finding their way into their industry R&D departments as the alternatives for domestic and professional lighting. However, luminescent sources, as phosphorescence, electroluminescence and fluorescence, are being relegated to minor lighting functions because of their poor performance in light output and their dependence on another light source.

 

But as it always happens with new inventions, the discovery and exploitation of a technology has a learning curve, and it takes some long time for those new technologies to inform a new generation of archetypes. The same way first cars resembled horse carriages, and first plastic products copied shapes coming from existent metalwork techniques, new lighting technologies have yet to revolutionize lighting. The archetype of the bulb, of the luminary, remains intact in our minds.

 

Light from chemical reactions

There is a luminescent technology, though, that has a great potential of radically changing this archetype: chemoluminescence. Chemoluminescence is the emission of light as the result of a chemical reaction. In said chemical reaction, two compounds, or reactants, break down when they get in contact with each other, and the resulting molecules rearrange to form different compounds, or products. When that happens, energy is released in the form of light. This extra energy happens mostly because the products have less energy stored in their bonds than the reactants. Unlike any other luminescence technologies, it does not require the presence of an external light source to produce light, and its brightness is significantly higher as standard, and can be regulated by accelerating the chemical reaction - commonly heating up the mixture heightens the light output.

 

Almost all of us have experienced this phenomenon. Who has not broken one of those glowsticks and realized, amazed, the bright light arising from it? This happens because the plastic tube filled with one of the reactants (a hydrogen peroxide solution) and a fragile crystal flask that contains, in turn, the other reactant (a fluorescent dye and a phenyl oxalate ester). When the stick is bent, the crystal flask breaks, allowing the two reactants to mix and generate the luminescent reaction. Chemoluminescence has great prominence too in criminology techniques; if there is blood, the Luminol will react in an analog way and generate light, speaking out the truth. The lucky ones who have had the chance to see the beautiful sight of dancing fireflies at night have witnessed the biological version of chemoluminescence, bioluminescence.

 

As illustrated by those examples, chemoluminescence takes the shape of a liquid, since both reactants are often in that state. When observing the raw reaction at a laboratory and not inside a firefly or a glowstick, what the observer will appreciate is, plain and simple, liquid light. I did explore, in my graduate project (De)light* at the Royal College of Art, the huge potential of liquid light and its meaning – if you’re interested, you can find more details, the research thesis and multimedia material at www.cristinaferraz.es. What I researched and explicated with my project is that liquid light is a beautiful, revolutionary, change of the light archetype. It represents a step towards what would become a significant change in the concept of domestic lighting. And what I would like to share with you here is a brief summary of my project and its intentions.

 

Light freed from its container

The poetic and practical potential of having light without the need of a solid source is hugely appealing. Practically, liquid light frees light from the necessity of being tied up to the electric grid. Light could be brought off-grid to those places without the wiring infrastructure. No electrical input would be required to make it work, reducing the cost and environmental impact of lighting. Poetically, it could mean rivers flowing along the streets to form urban lighting. It could mean buildings in which light comes from cascades. It could mean pouring, containing, reshaping light, as you would do with any other liquid. By freeing it from its physical container – the bulb –, light returns to its primary significance, that of an element which appears magical, intangible and liberated. Liquid light enriches the experience of light, allowing the user to enjoy it directly and allowing for new lighting scenarios to populate our imagery. New archetypes, new forms, would liberate us from the shadows projected on the cavern and make a step ahead in the semiotics of light, thus leading a new perceptual revolution.

 

Of course, there are currently technological impediments to the use of chemoluminescence as a professional light source. As in any other chemical reaction, it finishes when the reactants are used up. In its current state, the chemical compounds are not totally safe for common use. And the emanating light is often dull and unnatural. The question here though is whether all those technical limitations are there because chemoluminescence has only been developed to suit non-common uses. If the potential value of this technology strikes the R&D departments of companies, development efforts will be aimed at providing this light source, and researching into creating compounds that answer those three limitations from a user point of view. Attention needs to be drawn not into improving existent archetypes, but radically change them.

 

You see things as they are and ask, “Why?”
I dream things as they never were and ask, “Why not?”

George Bernard Shaw

 

 

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Let your imagination flow

One of the objectives of my project  was to trigger development efforts with new approaches in  chemoluminescence. If there’s anything to that regard you’d like to  comment or share, please feel free to do so.

 

What would you like to do with liquid light?

 

 

Further reading: Pour me a glass of light on Yanko Design.

 

* (De)light: liquid light © Cristina Ferraz Rigo, 2008

This week's links: nifty LED inventions, surrealist light sculpture, architectural light projections and two must watch videos. Click on pictures to see more!

 

 

We’ve seen robot vacuums make lighting art, so why not record players?

 

 

 

Stay safe driving at night, with this nifty LED invention

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[Yanko Design | Da Wei Xing]

 

 

 

Surreal architectural light projections that mess with your perception

 

 

 

Another smart use of LED around the house

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[ Yanko Design | Gonglue Jiang]

 

 

 

Equal parts unsettling and cool: flourescent light sculptures

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[ Colossal | Bernardí Roig]

 

Share a link of your own!

What's Friday without links? Scroll all the way down the answer*.

 

This week we've got light painting robots, laser-wielding humans, sliding magnets and ... rooftop drinking. A click on the picture will take you to more pictures!

 

 

Light Painting at the next level (lasers!) at the Battersea Power Station

 

 

Elegance in sliding magnets

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[Yanko Design | Hyungwoo Uhm]

 

 

Gorgeous lighting at a rooftop bar in Beirut

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[Mocoloco |  .PSLAB]

 

Light painting, this time by robots!

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[Moloco]

 

Smart architecture for indoor light

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[Coolhunter | Sinato]

 

 

Share a link of your own!

 

*Answer: a Monday! Let's not think about that one too much.

We've got a batch of devilishly clever and poetically beautiful links for your weekly dose of lighting inspiration. Thank goodness for the internet and Fridays. Click on the photo to jump to more details.


Wish you can see the stars in the city?

"Urban Skygazing" takes it to the next level, with a bit of DIY.

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[Oscar Lhermitte | DesignBoom]

 

 

A sound responsive, lighting installation.

Beautiful video to boot! Must watch:

 

 

Extremely cool idea for using LED

technology to improve the way we fish.

Cheeky music selection too!

 

 

 

Beauty in colorful refraction, a crystalline light sculpture, Filament

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[Ed Carpenter | Illuminart, Stefan Graf IALD]

 

 

 

That's one way to light up the night.

8000 lanterns to break the World Record!


 

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