© IGNITE / Bart van Overbeeke

Light can influence people’s behavior. This enables you to make sure that people keep their distance. Or that people move on and do not remain standing still in the same place. The IGNITE student team at Eindhoven University of Technology (TU/e) is conducting research into this interaction between people and light. 

Light show

This culminated last year in a large-scale illuminated artwork of cubes at the Glow light festival in Eindhoven. A monitor was located on both sides of the object. When two people put their hands over it at the same time, they created a light show. The modular work of art turned out to be so successful that the team at the time decided to keep working on it. They set up an independent foundation independent of the university under the name ‘Hyper Collective.’

IGNITE continued to exist as a student team, partly encouraged by the Intelligent Lighting Institute at TU/e in the Netherlands. Since September, the team is made up of ten new students from Industrial Design, Applied Physics and Psychology of Technology at the TU/e and Mechatronics from the Fontys University of Applied Sciences.

Maintaining distance has become very important as a result of the corona crisis. Light can play a role in this, says Tim de Jong, applied physics student and team leader of IGNITE. ” A project is currently underway within the Faculty of Applied Physics in collaboration with ProRail (a Dutch railway company, ed.) with the aim of studying crowds in railway stations.” 

Transition to the consumer

There are a multitude of lighting technologies with all kinds of sensors and LED fixtures. But not all these technologies actually reach the consumer market, says De Jong. “The consumer has no idea what can be done with light. Sometimes the lighting industry fails to make the transition to consumer applications.”

IGNITE seeks to close the gap between the technical potential and how it can be applied within society, De Jong continues: “As a student team, we can occupy a unique position. It is easy for students to connect with companies, municipalities and research institutions. A student has no vested interest other than to learn how you can further advance the technology.”

Unconscious

The team wants to show what is achievable with a lighting setup during Glow 2021. With this, the team is exploring how light influences people’s state of mind. Lighting can provide a sense of security, says De Jong. “But a strongly-lit corridor with fluorescent lighting can also be experienced as extremely unpleasant. How you experience light depends on more factors than just its intensity. It’s about the time of day, for one thing. At night, you would not expect something to be completely brightly lit. But the color of light also plays a role. For example, white or blue light. Whether it is very direct and hard light, or soft, warm or cool. These are all factors that have an influence. People are not conscious of those influences.”

Not only is the unconscious interaction between people and light important to the student team. The lighting setup must also have an artistic value, De Jong adds. “The setup should be beautiful and wonderful to look at. For starters, it should not only convey a sense of security, but also be entertaining.” 

Concepts

It has not yet been decided what the team is going to build. In order to make a choice, the students held a ‘battle of concepts.’ “In pairs, we thought up ten concepts. And we dropped one of them each week, until the best three remained.” The only criteria for the concepts were: That there is interaction between people, it is beautiful to look at and it is suitable for groups. 

The team will share those best three concepts with “the world” on February 3rd, De Jong says. Then there will be a livestream event, “a kind of talk show.” The students are presenting their ideas in three videos and guest speakers will be featured as well. The students will make digital 3D models out of the concepts, which they will also display digitally. “For our event, we are inviting students and teachers, but also researchers, designers and other experts from the lighting sector as well as artists. We want to receive as much feedback as possible about our three concepts this way.” The team uses that feedback to choose a concept that they will further develop for Glow. “But it could, of course, be that it becomes something completely different. That depends on the feedback that we receive.”

Knowledge platform

Ultimately, the lighting setup at Glow is not the final goal, De Jong emphasizes. “We want to create a knowledge platform around how light can influence people’s behavior. We get that knowledge by, among other things, directly observing and measuring the reactions of visitors to Glow. And we demonstrate what is feasible. We want to share that knowledge with companies and researchers from the lighting industry,” De Jong explains. “So that they can use that in their products.”

For De Jong, IGNITE is a student team where he also gets to express his creativity. As a high school student, he was unsure whether he wanted to go to art school. It became a study of physics in the end. “Because I was the top of the class,” the student confesses. De Jong wants to combine both these passions. “Scientific modeling of people’s behavior and designing light in such a way that people experience it as pleasurable and beautiful.” 

The Brainport region is therefore a perfect location for team IGNITE, as far as De Jong is concerned. “On the one hand, there is that highly innovative technical investment climate, and on the other, there is the creative side with, for example, the Design Academy Eindhoven. We have amazing creatives in Eindhoven. And a perfect podium for events such as Dutch Design Week, Dutch Technology Week, Glow and Eindhoven Makers Faire.”

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About the author

Author profile picture Corine Spaans is a writer. She is particularly interested in the stories of the people behind the innovations and has a passion for sport (innovation).