Studies that prove the positive effects of daylight on health and productivity have inspired a slew of lighting products that mimic the sun’s brightness and color as it changes throughout the day. But there are other aspects of natural light’s dynamism that are harder to replicate—like how it moves across a wall, for example, or filters in through the leaves of a neighboring tree.
Designer and engineer Leslie Nooteboom is using algorithmically generated images to solve that problem, with a lovely lighting solution called Komorebi. For his final Masters project at London’s Royal College of Art, Nooteboom designed a table lamp that doubles as a stealth projector, which users can control through a connected app. The projected image moves subtly in the same way as natural light coming in through a window, thanks to an algorithm that randomly generates motion.
So far, Nooteboom has designed three settings to choose from: one that mimics light filtered through leaves in the wind, another that imitates the reflection of light on water and one called “dappled light,” with little circles that change in intensity and brightness as they move. Users can adjust lightness and color on the platform, and even create a light “playlist.” With those settings in place, Komorebi will generate subtly moving images that are always changing.
Nooteboom got the idea for the project after researching the mental and physical effects that access to daylight and nature can have on people. Last year, he went to Trellick Tower in London and placed two stickers in front of the double entrance doors—one that read “My flat makes me happy” and another that read “My flat makes me unhappy.” After residents entered the building through the door that corresponded with how they felt, Nooteboom asked them to explain. “Most of them were quite happy because the apartments have these large windows,” he says. “They described waking up to a red sunlight or light falling and breaking up the shadows.” Nooteboom coupled that anecdotal research with medical studies that show hospital patients with access to nature heal faster than those who don’t. With that, he went to work on building a lamp that would mimic natural light not only in quality, but also in movement.
The images that Komorebi projects were created by Nooteboom himself; he traveled to the subpolar Faroe Islands, between Norway and Iceland to get inspiration. Nooteboom tried capturing still images of natural light but quickly switched to video so he could show its movement in water and across the landscape. When he returned, he wrote code with simple rules that describe things like the shape of the window that the light would look like it’s coming through, how the light should interact with the environment, what perspective it should have and how it should change over time.
After designing the software, Nooteboom turned to Japanese industrial designer Naoto Fukasawa’s Artemide lamp for inspiration on the design of the sleek projector. With a concrete base and a coated steel body, the minimal design fits in as just another piece of furniture. Now that Nooteboom has graduated, he’s looking for a manufacturer who can produce the hardware and is hoping to build out the app into an open-source platform for generative light projections. “Similar to the app store, I want users who can code to be able to program new lighting experiences, and for others to be able to download them to their profile and insert them into their living space,” he says.