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:https://doi.org/10.1145/3334480.3382860

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?

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7 Comments

  • Zey
    Posted December 2, 2020 at 8:30 pm 0Likes

    I really found the points you raised in this article relatable since many Gen Z (and millennials) owns LED Light in their bedrooms or as you have mentioned, close to their television screen. We usually buy them for aesthetic reasons and don’t put too much thought on it. Especially, it is highly interesting to mention that the use of this technology creates a counterbalance between the empty spaces around television and the screen.

  • kevinsousa
    Posted December 9, 2020 at 5:33 pm 0Likes

    This is a great article pointing out the inherent relation between digital practicality and the human need of aesthetic, in this case colour balances. Similar to what Zey said, I think through TikTok everyone wanted their rooms to be digitally colour coordinated with their TV, Laptop, Mood, or Vibe. So the fact that now we got plants adapting to the light and movement of screens is AMAZING! do we need to water those plants though?

    • s2129620
      Posted December 10, 2020 at 11:58 am 0Likes

      Well, I guess the plant could be both alive or artificial, but what moves the plant is a system using support structures.

  • Vy Dang
    Posted December 16, 2020 at 12:15 am 0Likes

    Very insightful post! For me, I am definitely not a fan of bright lights or lights in any other shade than warm. I can see the synchronized ambient effects aims for an authentic and seamless experience of virtual simulations, thus improve media consumption. But I did not know there are on-going efforts of such modifications to real-life elements from the environment like living plants!

  • Masaru Saito
    Posted December 16, 2020 at 1:24 pm 0Likes

    Interesting article, thankss!!
    One thing that I was surprised when I started to live in Leiden last year was that Dutch people (probably other European people as well though) always nicely decorates their home reflecting their tastes. In Japan, decorating rooms is not that much popular since we are super careful not to damage rented rooms at all (this perfectionism is a kind of Japanese social phenomenon). I have a lot of friends from Japanstudies and it’s interesting to see some Japanese-tech-fun guys decorates his rooms in “cyber-city Tokyo” taste much more than actual Tokyo people does reflecting his (kind of) exotic image of Japan. I guess ambient lighting taste is also the kind of stereotypic image which many foreign people have on Japan, and this is what I evoked while I was reading your article (^^””).

  • AkifAliyev
    Posted December 17, 2020 at 2:17 pm 0Likes

    I thoroughly enjoyed reading this blog post. Not long ago myself I purchased a second hand Philips television from someone on Facebook that turned out to have integrated ambient lighting (light strips around the rim of the television that projects hues of light on the wall behind it to match the scenes on television). Although not the most functional (hence why it was second hand on Facebook), it was still the first time I saw such a feature integrated in a TV set which prompted me to look further into the technology.

    Its safe to say the effect it has on setting the mood and atmosphere is very impactful, I can only imagine what moving plants would contribute to that. Great work!

  • Hidde
    Posted December 18, 2020 at 9:31 pm 0Likes

    It’s really interesting to show these advances in the technologies surrounding media! I’m still kinda on the fence, for one because I’m personally dubious how pleasant it would be on the eyes to have one’s surrounding continually alter, especially for people who are more susceptible to flashing lights. Besides that, I find the application of moving plants to be a weird, vertigo inducing, experience. Awesome, but really nauseating. Yet ambiance control is also something that I often use in order to enhance the viewing experience of media in my own room. So I definitely understand how important it is yeah.

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