Shapeshifting Streetlights Are The Future We Want To Live In

Regular streetlights are all well and good, bathing us in the glow of their sodium, or more increasingly LED, lamps. They’re mostly rigid metal contraptions installed primarily for public safety purposes. They could be so much more, however, as the Bloomlight demonstrates.

The light consists of a flexible main stem, which can be pulled in different directions by six steel cables controlled by stepper motors. At the top, it has a shroud made of wooden slats and fabric that can bloom like a flower around its central lamp, thanks to a 3D printed mechanism. LIDAR is used to detect approaching humans, at which point the Bloomlight leans over towards them and begins to bloom open, showering them with light.

It’s a beautiful art piece from the Dutch design firm [Vouw], and one we’d love to see in person. The design reminds of this useful tentacle design. With that said, it could grow emotionally exhausting having to repeatedly ignore plaintively waving streetlights that crave human attention as you walk on through the night. Anthropomorphizing anything is usually a double edged sword.

Perhaps the neatest streetlight hack we’ve seen is way back from 2013 – using a laser diode to shut off a streetlight from a distance. Video after the break.

32 thoughts on “Shapeshifting Streetlights Are The Future We Want To Live In

    1. Its a street light, as they go its good – the closing of the top vastly reduces the light output, and while its hard to judge on camera they seem far far dimmer than the streetlights round here. Also they are not bloody white, streetlights with white LED lights are almost my biggest lighting related peeve – that top spot belongs to the ever brighter car dazzletrons, as for some reason every car needs to cast more light than a world war search light, twice! (they probably are not quite that intense, but I’d not be surprised if the stupidly bright top end ones of today are brighter in their arc…)

    2. I agree, and so to professional street light designers, which is why the new LED based lighting is so directional and down facing. A good opportunity to hack in this area would be to make the lights “smart” and have them use ideas such as adjustable liquid lens arrays to focus just enough light only where a pedestrian needed it while being energy efficient enough to be solar powered. Perhaps the light steering can be done with an LCD like array of electro reflective pixels, a holographic lense system, like a phased array for light where the light can only emerge from areas that are not switched to reflective, and otherwise will bounce around in the space between the array and a reflective back until it exits where required. Something very hard to design and perfect but easy to mass produce with the tech we already use for displays.

    3. Yep, I would like to see street lights with baffles that keep direct viewing to something like 30 deg bellow the horizon. There is no reason to see the source from an airplane, or from beyond the surface border of useful illumination. Also agree about the blue-white rayguns on cars.

      1. The LEDs really can’t take the heat and the diodes would degrade rapidly when the temperature rises in the summers, so the per-unit power is lower than with conventional street lighting, which is why the lamp has to be installed lower to the ground to provide enough illumination, which is why they have to open up the reflector to shine the light sideways and into your eye to cover the same area without doubling the number of lamp posts.

        With the emphasis is on low energy use and low maintenance, all other aspects are degraded to just above the level where too many people would start to complain.

  1. It’s a nice idea, but entirely impractical. I don’t know in which environment this street light is supposed to survive. But in the parts of the world I am familiar with, a street light using articulated spokes covered in fabric would probably probably be torn down by the elements in a matter of days, a few weeks at best.

    1. Well not even trying them ( and working out the durability) makes the world the same ole dull place it currently is. Don’t stop on the dreamers or the tree can never get started.

        1. Cool but I think impractical. Thinking of cost and maintenance of thousands of these …. A simple pole with a light and light sensor is easier to maintain. As a tax payer, I applaud simplicity. Problem in the world today is over complication.

          1. Well, if you put it that way, then we’re a little bit doomed, indeed. :D Art and buildings always have been a mirror of society. And making people happy is priceless. In my opinion, simplicity (or worse: minimalism) as such, is the pure lack of imagination. I’m not saying that there are no exceptions, though. Elegance and simplicity don’t have to contradict themselves per se. Some simple things, like light bulbs (how fitting), can subsitute the function of complex solid-state circuits. A light bulb can act as a fuse, can be used to charge lead batteries – if is is fully charged, the 12v bulb in series will change its glow from dim to bright and avoids overcharging. And in the case of overvoltage, due to a broken PSU, the bulb will have a little burnout. ;)

        2. I’m sure it’s just a coincidence that zosh is also the name of the person who called this design entirely impractical. But hey, you’re clearly the master of sarcasm here, so I’m sure you know how to spot it as well as you write it.

    2. While I do have concerns over the durability, particularly of the opening umbrella like top, I don’t think it will be as bad as you suggest – I don’t see the bending being much a problem in the short/medium term (maybe even safer in car vs lamppost incidents too) and the top for me just wants to be a more wind shedding design, or perhaps for bonus points an opening spiral style wind turbine. Though as it never opens that far and remains mostly a steep walled cone to the wind I don’t think it will actually cause to many issues as is.

      Long term they will be a nightmare though, all those moving parts will wear, need oiling, the cost in motors etc make it a daft idea, a highly luminous, brilliant, but rather silly idea… And ideas that are so much fun are genius in their own right!

      1. and as bike riders all know cables get water and crud building up and soo you have corrosion and friction. Also that fabric and 3D printed stuff how long will it last in 40+C summers and all that UV and in some places serious cold and huge winds but as an art piece in certain places say around a public square or eating space or gallery it could be really beautiful.

  2. this made me think of the indianapolis airport. most travellers wind up coming and going through a long wide gerbil tube and they installed a big grid of lights in the ceiling, maybe 10×100 independent lights, which change color and do a few different patterns as you walk under them. there’s a cheesy sound effect too. once you’ve seen it twice, it’s dumb, really just a stupid gimmick, a waste of money. but the first time i walked under it and i wasn’t expecting it. it was magical, i thought i was tripping. even if you’re completely oblivious to it, futzing with your luggage and looking at the bus schedule on your phone, you get this very strong sensation that you’re being watched, because the environment is clearly reacting to your movements even if you can’t put your finger on what’s going on right away. kind of like a mime clowning with a bystander that is looking away.

    what i’m saying is like all art it’s all in the context, i hope they put it somewhere where passerby will be shocked and awed.

  3. The general tenor of comments here (apart from the spelling, grammar and general use of communication) makes me despair. What a boring, colourless and completely tedious society we would have if we had no aesthetic input into our lives. No art, no beautiful or imaginative design, no joy, no music even because it is, of course, a waste of resources and power. Art has many functions, just like engineering or electronics. It serves to amaze and intrigue, to stimulate the imagination, to make us think in non linear ways. And sometimes, things can have their own inbuilt happiness inducer that takes our minds away from the unexamined banality of general life and makes our hearts sing.

    1. Oh, don’t despair. Just because someone (me) dared to utter the ridiculously controversial opinion that this thing was, quote, “nice but impractical” you won’t find yourself in an artless, drab, unimaginative world populated entirely by straw men.

      1. Ironically, your response is so awesome that it rises to the level of “art”.

        As in, if it was available on a nice plaque, I would hang it on one of the walls in my office and daily feel inspired by its sheer beauty.

      2. You overrate yourself substantially. Your reply is not “ridiculously controversial” in that it is unlikely to upset the reader or cause fierce debate or argument. On the contrary, I fear that it adds to my despair in that your comment is ridiculously trite and superficial and adds nothing but an unexamined opinion to the gentle debate. If you wish to add to a discussion do please consider writing something of non – trivial content which adds structure rather than being a wonderful example of nebbish – like behaviour, a descriptor which I believe you intended to use rather than “straw man”

    2. Trouble is, light pollution is such a big
      problem it’s hard to not associate this with the idea of a gross ugly glow from the sky if you live in a city. One of them might not make a difference, but response to art isn’t rational. I’d be perfectly fine if all street lights in the world got redone by art collectives, but in the modern world things like light pollution and how easy it is to vandalize are part of the aesthetics.

  4. Beautiful. Straight out of a Miyazaki anime.

    Small changes (such as a cap to prevent skyward leakage, and a flexible integument to protect the workings from rain and dirt) could work around some of the problems mentioned here. C’mon, guys, find ways to make art durable.

    I like the idea of making the lamppost smart enough to bend towards the person it “likes”. Maybe someone who behaves in a certain way.

    I wonder what a busy path lined with these would look like. I imagine the posts dipping and weaving in response to ephemeral clusters of folks.

    And I second, vigorously, [Dave Gee’s] comment, above.

  5. I wonder what would happen in a lane lined with these if say someone approached one on the end but then walked away? Would the first lamp’s movement trigger the next and next and next…… and then the reverse as the last lamp returns to straight it triggers the neighbour…. and they have this psychedelic wave going up and down the lane like feedback petering out over time. Would look hilarious and beautiful but then such effects could be programmed and maybe upgraded from time to time to give a sense of randomness. Imagine one that sense the speed of traversal so if a person was walking fast and stiff (but not running) it would spring away from them and even blow back the umbrella to sort of shriek from all that busy energy or on the other hand and gentle approach by a child could bring it slowly down and down to light the way gently. It would be magical. Birds on the other hand would be detected and not much be done so that they aren’t scared away from the park/trees. Also the dimming could be great for power savings as most parks are empty much of the night but lit up at full strength all night every night.

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