Office 'Sky' Ceiling Simulates Outdoors for Workers
The dynamic luminous ceiling gives office staff the pleasant feeling that they are working under the open sky.
CREDIT: Fraunhofer IAO
Many people haven't enjoyed the luxury of working under open sky since workers left the farm in droves for factories and office buildings. Now a new virtual ceiling capable of changing lighting conditions could recapture that sensation for modern workers trapped indoors.
The luminous ceiling created by energy-efficient LED lights simulates clouds moving across a blue sky. Such a ceiling can change its lighting conditions at a slow or rapid pace to imitate how passing clouds dim the sunlight pouring in from above a pleasant feeling that might even help boost worker productivity.
"The LEDs allow us to simulate these dynamic changes in lighting in a way that is not directly obvious to the naked eye," said Matthias Bues, head of visual technologies at the Fraunhofer Institute for Industrial Engineering in Germany. "Otherwise, the lighting might distract people from their work. But it does need to fluctuate enough to promote concentration and heighten alertness."
That prototype ceiling created by Fraunhofer researchers can light up with an intensity of more than 3,000 lumens per 11 square feet (1 square meter) at full power, or far greater than the 500 to 1,000 lumens needed to create a comfortable level of lighting.
Volunteers who worked under such test lighting surfaces liked working in the fast, dynamic lighting that simulates fast-changing clouds moving across the sky. After experiencing static lighting, gentle lighting fluctuations and rapid fluctuations on three different days of simulated work, eight out of 10 people ended up choosing the rapid light fluctuations on the fourth day.
Fraunhofer researchers created the lab prototype by using 34,560 LED lights that cover an area of about 366 square feet (34 square meters). But their virtual sky device has already drawn inquiries from businesses interested in outfitting their conference rooms.
An initial cost of about $1,279 (1,000 euros) per square meter is expected to drop once more orders come in and production ramps up. If that happens, many more office drones may soon better enjoy life even in workplaces without windows.
The virtual sky will go on display at the CeBIT trade fair in Hannover, Germany from March 6 10 at the joint Fraunhofer booth in Hall 9, Booth E 02.
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