Autonomous Lighting With Intelligence


Getting into home automation usually starts with lighting, like hacking your lights to automatically turn on when motion is detected, timer controls, or even tying everything into an app on your smart phone. [Ken] took things to a completely different level, by giving his lighting intelligence.

The system is called ‘Myra’, and it works by detecting what you’re doing in the room, and based on this, robotic lights will optimally adjust to the activity. For example, if you’re walking through the room, the system will attempt to illuminate your path as you walk. Other activities are detected as well, like reading a book, watching TV, or just standing still.

At the heart of the ‘Myra’ system is an RGBD Sensor (Microsoft Kinect/Asus Xtion). The space in the room is processed by a PC running an application to determine the current ‘activity’. Wireless robotic lights are strategically placed around the room; each with a 2-servo system and standalone Arduino. The PC sends out commands to each light with an angle for the two axis and the intensity of the light. The lights receive this command wirelessly via a 315MHz receiver, and the Arduino then ‘aims’ the beam according to the command.

This isn’t the first time we’ve seen [Ken’s] work; a couple of years ago we saw his extremely unique ‘real life’ weather display.  The ‘Myra’ system is still a work in progress, so we can’t wait to see how it all ends up.  Be sure to check out the video after the break for a demo of the system.

28 thoughts on “Autonomous Lighting With Intelligence

    1. Exactly what I was thinking too. But his is a cool concept that could lead to something quite useful on day. Flood lighting in combination with a myra reading light would be great…

      1. The UV emission from ordinary fluorescent lights is tiny compared to that from sunlight.

        While it might use more energy (especially with LEDs) to direct a light than to just light up the whole space, if you apply it to heating or cooling, you’ll almost guarantee a net energy savings. That’s especially true if you’re stuck with a house or apartment with poor insulation and can’t upgrade it. A 75W reflector incandescent bulb feels very warm directly in front of it, compared to 1000W or more for a common space heater. Even after adding 200W or so for an old, inefficient PC, you’re still way ahead.

    2. When you take into account the power needed to run the Kinects; the PC; and steppers you may be right but even if you could get the overhead down it’s still be incredibly annoying and generally inhospitable to live with that kind of lighting all the time. Maybe you could compensate for that by having lower levels of LED light coming from multiple different “turrets” spread throughout the room but at some point you certainly would have negated any energy savings.

      It makes far more sense to just do what the lighting industry is already moving towards. Switch to all LED (since most other forms of lighting, especially fluorescent, don’t like to be turned on an off really fast or don’t dim well) and then us a combination of motion sensors and ambient light sensors. The motion sensors turn the light off as soon as there isn’t anyone in the room and the ambient light sensors detect how much, if any, light is coming in from windows and dims the lighting automatically to maintain a set light level without wasting energy.

  1. Brilliant. I would set a standby position for each light for example to project to the ceiling to create a diffused light. So when you walk into the room all lignts turn projecting to the ceiling to create and ambient light. After you change activity (for example start reading) the best position light turns to your location and after some time all other light slowly fade away. That would probably result a smoother transition.

    How your system behaves if more people more around the room?

    1. Thanks for your advise. Yeah, I really need to learn interior design at some point…
      >set a standby position for each light for example to project to the ceiling to create a diffused light
      Very good idea, I’ll try that.

      >How your system behaves if more people more around the room?
      The system recognizes multiple people, and assigns the lights to each person to accommodate as many people as possible.

  2. Absolutely brilliant.

    Would this scale easily to carry an IR heat source? I saw a TED video recently of someone who suggested such lights to warm people instead of the entire environment. This would be perfect.

      1. Thanks for the pointer. Very interesting article.
        As you say, I think one of the next steps Myra can take is scaling to other media; lights, heating, sound, smell, etc…
        There may be a few extra challenges in optimizing heating, as it may involve simulating thermal dynamics on the fly.

    1. Creepy? Only if they’re all pointed at the centerpiece of the room: the Portal Gun. As soon as you lift it up, they start tracking you while saying “The cake is not a lie.” Me? I’d just walk in eating cake and flip them all the bird. Take that GLADOS.

  3. What if you are using a tablet, it’ll say ‘oh, the person needs glare on his screen, looks like a book’

    But anyway, it’s a nice project and no doubt you learn a lot from it, but the last thing I want is a camera in my room. And a constant tracking combined with a lot of noise would also not please me.

    But out of curiosity, what if there is more than one person?

    1. >What if you are using a tablet, it’ll say ‘oh, the person needs glare on his screen, looks like a book’
      The system knows the direction you’re looking at, and the surface normal of the book.
      The current setup tries to assign a light that has a direct path to the pages of the book, without the lights going directly into your eyes.
      Your point is a very valid point, and I should change my algorithms so that the system tries to consider surface glare as well.
      Thanks for the advise.

      As written above, if there is more than one person, the system recognizes this and assigns the most appropriate lights to each person.
      I couldn’t show that in the video because my wife didn’t want to go on Youtube :)

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