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.

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Blue LED Streetlights Keeping You Awake?

If you’ve played around with “white” LEDs, you already know that there’s no such thing. There’s warm white and cool white and any numbers of whites in-between. And when white LEDs were new, the bluer “cool white” variety were significantly more prevalent.

Enough US states have swapped out their old street lights with LEDs that it may be having a measurable effect on people and on the animals around us. This is the claim in a recent position paper by the American Medical Association’s Council on Science and Public Health. (Report as PDF.)

Science strongly suggests that heavy doses of light can keep people from falling asleep, and that brighter LED streetlamps may be making the problem worse. The AMA report goes a step further, and pins extra blame on the color of the light. Blue light apparently suppresses the production of melatonin which helps you sleep at night. And it’s not just humans whose circadian rhythms are getting messed up — the effects are seen throughout the animal kingdom.

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Hacking A Streetlight With Lasers

$20, some spare parts and a bit of mischief was a small price for [Chris] to pay for a reprieve from light pollution with this remote control laser hack. The streetlight in front of his house has a sensor that faces westward, and flips the lamp on once the sun has disappeared over the horizon. As it turns out, [Chris’s] third floor window is due west of this particular lamp, meaning he takes the brunt of its illumination but also conveniently places him in a prime location for tricking the sensor.

According to [Chris], the lamp’s sensor requires two minutes of input before it will switch off and stay off for around 30 seconds before cycling on again. The lamp does not zap straight to full brightness, though; it takes at least a minute to ramp up. [Chris] recalled a hack from a few years ago that essentially used LED throwies tacked onto the sensors with putty to shut off lamps for a guerrilla drive-in movie, but the sensors on those lamps were at the base and easily accessed. [Chris] needed to reach a sensor across the block and nearly three stories tall, so he dug around his hackerspace, found a 5V 20mA laser diode, and got to work building a solution.

[Chris] 3D printed a holder for the laser and affixed it via a mounting bracket to the wall near his third floor window, pointing it directly at the street lamp’s sensor. He plugged the laser’s power supply into an inexpensive remote control outlet, which allowed him to darken the street lamp at a touch of a button. This is certainly a clever and impressive hack, but—as always—use at your own risk. Check out a quick demo video after the break.

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