Ambient Lighting and Media Consumption

Media consumption is, undoubtedly, one of the most important elements in digital media. It refers to activities where one interacts with new media, books, television, radio etc. Needless to say, media consumption has both positive and negative effects. However, this blog is fixated in the way we consume media at home, and specifically the technology used to create ambient lighting when consuming media at home.

Some people, for example, use LED light strips behind their monitors or TVs, either for decoration purposes, to improve their watching experience or reduce eye strain. The truth is that LED light strips are increasingly being used by more people (raise your digital hand if you’ve got one). Perhaps this is because of their durability, their cheap cost, their energy efficiency and their ease of use (they usually come with a remote).

But to achieve an even better watching experience (media consumption), some synchronisation between the source of the image and the light source is required. Different companies have started working on this since, at least, 2002. The result today is quite impressive. Some products (bulbs, light strips) offer Bluetooth connection. Other companies offer even a greater experience. Philips, for example, offers complete synchronisation between their Hue line of products and computers. An app enables the light to mimic the image the colours of the video one is watching, or the game one is playing, even using audio for effect (so, if there are explosions happening in the background of the video or game, the light will react to it too). Moreover, the app enables one to choose a colour palette and let the light dance to the colours of the music. And if you want to go even crazier, you can integrate Hue’s lighting with Razer products, such as keyboards and mice. The video below shows Hue in action.
Philips Hue in action

As I was writing this blog I found out about the Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems 2020, where a very peculiar system was presented. This team introduced AmbiPlant:

“a system using support structures for plants as interfaces for providing ambient effects during digital media consumption.”

Donald Degraen, Marc Schubhan, Kamila Mushkina, Akhmajon Makhsadov, Felix Kosmalla, André Zenner, and Antonio Krüger. 2020. AmbiPlant – Ambient Feedback for Digital Media through Actuated Plants. In Extended Abstracts of the 2020 CHI Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems (CHI EA ’20). Association for Computing Machinery, New York, NY, USA, 1–9. DOI:

In this video one can see a demo of the system (the plants) moving to the action of a videogame. I highly recommend watching the video.

Now, you might be wondering: “if technology has evolved to such a degree where synchronisation is seamless, and it is particularly good for one’s eyes, why don’t cinemas use it?” The truth is that when you’re in a movie theater, even if you’re all the way in the back, the screen is still quite big. When you’re home, even if you have large TV, it takes up less of your field of view than a humungous movie theater screen. So, ambient lighting counterbalances the difference and fills a greater portion of one’s vision with an even amount of light.

But what do you think about ambient lighting? Do you own an LED light or know someone who does? What do you think about it?