AT A GLANCE
Orbit is a human-centric lighting project developed over the course of February 2019. This lamp helps stimulate comfort & productivity while limiting stress by shifting light color and temperature throughout the day. I was inspired during development to connect with workers to better understand their physical and mental health, and incorporated a more accessible motion-operated switch rather than finicky buttons into the final design.
1 \ INSPIRATION
Despite the ease and efficiency that technology has provided, people around the world are working harder and longer than ever before without paying attention to their wellbeing. As a result, a significant percent of the working population faces mental and physical strain.
2 \ Solution
A compact desk lamp that varies lighting based on environmental conditions will help improve wellbeing within the workplace while also being joyful to use.
3 \ INSIGHTS
Through a curated survey that reached out to 25 individuals around the world from a plethora of backgrounds and fields, I discovered three key behaviors and situations that contributed to the quality of overall wellbeing within the workplace.
First, 80% of those interviewed suffered from regular eyestrain and sleep problems. Additionally, only 75% worked in a well-lit, open environment, and an even smaller subset of the interviewees made a concerted effort to step away from their work and take breaks.
Based on this data and additional conversations with the three key audience members introduced above, I began exploring possible solutions through research from the Journal of Neural Transmission. Their findings indicate that photoreceptors can help stimulate a significant increase in “alertness and speed of information processing” when responding to blue light in the 460nm wavelength. This research, when combined with already applied findings on the effects of warm light on brain chemistry, has the potential to help improve mental wellbeing both in and out of the workplace.
4 \ Exploring the market
I quickly discovered that current light-based solutions are mostly aimed at helping people address sleep wellbeing, but not needs that arise during the day. Current trends also decry blue light and praise yellow light without considering the unique benefits of each. Finally, there is very little emphasis on interaction design for people with varying levels of physical ability.
My basis for a new solution primarily hinged on three factors. The first was intelligence: auto-tuning color temperature adjustments would allow customers to benefit more by doing less. Moreover, aesthetic considerations had to tailor size and shape towards the average desktop to remain unobtrusive. Finally, interactions had to be accessible and discoverable with any level of motor control.
5 \ concept refinement
After getting a clearer picture about the environments and habits that members of my audience had presented, I began sketching out possible solutions. Some of these concepts were variations on the same basic idea, while others to explored more imaginative forms and interactions. As I sketched, I focused on usability and space.
Concept 1 was inspired by the sunrise, as well as the natural curves that are so prevalent in our universe’s own designs. It also introduces a new rolling motion for interaction that complements a form free of buttons or switches.
Concept 2 leans towards a more austere form, inspired by the monoliths of 2001: A Space Odyssey and geometric architecture of Blade Runner. Similar to the concept before it, I wanted to present the light as a soft, subtle glow that gently pours out of the lamp rather than a harsh beam that cuts through your surroundings. This lamp would use magnetic levitation to turn on, once again eliminating the need for buttons or switches.
6 \ Feedback
I had my own satisfactions & reservations about both of the concepts. A few of these concerns and qualifications were also shared by my three key candidates.
Option 1’s form was well-received; intent was clearly communicated via the sketch. Great questions were raised about the type of material that would be used, given the rolling method of interaction. Funnily enough, the sunrise effect that I was going struck all three of my audience members as looking “more like an egg yolk.” Once you hear it, you just can’t unsee it.
I felt that Option 2 was an interesting form that just wasn’t the right fit for this project. Outside feedback echoed that same feeling. The effect and technology behind the execution would be exciting to explore in a separate endeavor, but for this solution, Option 1 felt like the best way to go when considering both my gut feeling regarding what to deliver and my audience’s insights.
7 \ Foam prototyping
In order to get a better sense of size and shape, I lathed a set of foam models based on the Orbit sketches. These models varied in both dimensions and curvature to figure out which combination best served the environment and rolling on/off interaction. The arced sides & edges of this first model made the rolling motion most enjoyable, and its flat top & bottom provided stability when resting on a desktop. However, the size of both models were much too small, and scaled up accordingly during the 3D CAD process.
This render provides a rough idea as to how the lamp would be constructed to create a functioning prototype. You can see that adjustments were made from the sketches to address both material concerns and that “egg yolk” impression. At this stage, I found it helpful to visualize the solution as a system of intricate parts that all needed to fit together in perfect harmony.
8 \ Assembly
As 3D printers sculpted the top & bottom sections of the lamp, I turned my attention to gathering the electrical components to make the rolling switch come to life. After some digging, I found tiny tilt-switches that contained a rolling magnetic ball inside; rotating this component a full 180º would cause the tiny ball to roll from one side to the other, completing a circuit and allowing the light to turn on. Using a bit of wire and a lot of patience while soldering, I was able to connect a battery to the tilt switch and then the switch to the LEDs. My rudimentary lamp was completed and ready for a new housing.
This intricate system was seamlessly attached to a few holes machined into an acrylic disk that I had laser cut. After applying a bit of epoxy and pressure, the final lamp was sandwiched together in the same preliminary arrangement visualized above: top base, acrylic and LEDs, and wiring all leading to the bottom base.
9 \ opening day
The Orbit prototype not only met the basic customer needs outlined up top, but also exceeded their expectations by providing a unique, accessible, and joyful experience. Seeing this project as more than a prototype, I tried to consider how a person would actually use this lamp on a consistent basis. One result of this exploration is my projected implementation of wireless charging through copper contact points.
10 \ Future Steps
Developing Orbit’s form & underlying technologies have allowed me to reflect on the value that comes from developing a solution with large scale impact in mind. I believe the true measure of a design comes from utility and adaptability, not just aesthetics. Further revisions of Orbit should explore more sustainable material usage that incorporates recycled plastics and allows for more adaptive light settings to address a wider set of employees.
Physical and mental health within the workplace is a human right, not a privilege, and I believe that addressing this subject with empathy and new technologies will lead us to a more sustainable working environment.