When orbiting space, satellites automatically position their solar panels to face the sun, much the way a plant’s leaves do. Kelty, the camping company, has devised a flashlight that works on a similar principle. It may not be automatic, but the LumaTwist lantern is still a flashlight that doesn’t require a human hand to do its job: you can drop the LumaTwist wherever you need light and turn the LED panels directly at the focus of your concentration. Like, say, at the fire you should have lit before nightfall.
The LumaTwist is one example of the new, alien industrial design begotten by LEDs, or light-emitting diodes, which are slowly altering the way we provide light. Car tail-lights are now grids of LEDs; so are many traffic lights. LED light also powers most new flat-panel displays, eco-friendly light bulbs and also your iPhone. The lone filament has given way to a field of smaller, simpler bulbs, making our devices look less like big dumb cyclopses and more like the delicate, atomically-arranged eyes of insects. (The next version of the LED, the “organic” LED, is actually made of living bacteria that glow when you zap them.)
The device you see at top is smaller and more portable than Kelty’s more robust version, the LumaPivot, seen at middle. The LumaPivot works by the same principle but provides 1/3 more light (350 lumens versus 210 lumens) for longer (15 hours versus six hours). And, like all LED lights, the bulbs are expected to last around 30 years.
Available Spring 2011. LumaTwist Price: $50 USD.