Bachelor Project — 2015
Huefo

The Multi-user Lighting Problem

Imagine a room full of people in groups and people sitting individually. Everyone is doing something different, and therefore requires a different lighting setting. Philips Hue uses a mobile app to control the lighting situation, but the system only allows one person to control all the lights. When everyone desires a different light setting, how do we decide who gets control, and what that setting is?

In collaboration with Nikola Gaytandjiev and Willem Ermeling.

Making light tangible

Huefo aims to solve the multi-user problem. It has a tangible interface which can be controlled by everybody in the room. Each pin corresponds to a particular light in the room, and is placed on the surface of the Huefo thus turning that light the color temperature and brightness set.

This gives a lot of flexibility over the lights to the users, and because the interface is physical rather than digital, all users in the room can have influence of the lights and contribute their desired setting. The project is all about communicating lighting needs. Huefo constantly balances the users' lighting needs, and physically tilts to the most requested setting.

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Limiting the Spectrum

Sliding the wooden pegs across the top surface was experienced by the focus groups as an intuitive and pleasant interaction, but in order to map the colour controls to a 2-dimensional surface, some abstraction decisions were made. Philips Hue offers over 16 (E^6) different colours, yet in practice, most colours are never used. Additionally, research conducted in this project suggests that unlike color, which has a different emotional effect on everyone, color temperature has very similar emotional effects on people.

Therefore, Huefo offers variations of colours that are on the colour temperature gradient. On the horizontal axis there is a gradient ranging from cold (> 8,000 K) to hot (< 2,000 K) colours. Orthagonal to this is a brightness gradient: with this the lights can be set to up to 800 Lumen.

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A Personal Testing Environment

In this project, access to a life-like 'breakout' room with connected Philips Hue lights was provided. However, we quickly found that this room came with its limitations. The room was shared with other students, so access was limited. Additionally, the connectivity with the system was poor, resulting in common 10 second delays when testing.

Therefore, we made a 1:20 scale 'breakout' room out of foamcore that allowed us to evaluate the controller much faster. The Hue bulbs were substituted by simple RGB LED lights, allowing for faster development and evaluation.

Conclusion

During this project I adopted the research-first design approach. By reading into the general properties of light and the effects of light onto people I had a clearer view of what we could achieve with this project. Aditionally, a benchmark study was done to gain awareness of market trends and state-of-the-art technology. These were all helpful steps one can take to kick-start a project.

This project has also helped me in developing my experience with manufacturing techniques. The design challenges we faced during the project has led to us stepping out of our comfort zones, using techniques I have never used before, such as laser-cutting and making plastic copies of MDF models with heat moulding. Finally, integrating the Arduino processor with the Philips Hue environment using their API have given me experience in programming and data structures.