About this project

Tangible Lightscapes is a research on interfaces mainly based on light and gestures – with an aim to develop a behaviours vocabulary on wireless networked devices.
This blog keeps track of my research development.
Everything started at Copenhagen Institute of Interaction Design, my
final project advisor was Dave Mellis.

Today the light feedback from everyday devices is inconsistent: each has its own light vocabulary. This makes it hard to guess what the device is saying.
A research an a universal device vocabulary based on light behaviours could show potential and opportunities for undeveloped interaction tools.

This video is a quick overview on different light statuses that are already largely used in everyday devices. Some of them are pretty confusing, others are completely accepted in our culture.

Light can be a rich and meaningful tool to express behaviours through colours, brightness, shapes and pattern changing speed.
Before developing my concept I conducted two rounds of user tests (14 volunteers) to understand if it was possible to design an interface using a simple light behaviour routine. I ran these tests using two simple prototypes, their interface is mainly based on the use of gestures and lights/colours. I designed the first behaviour routine according to my way of imagining the different states of the device.

In the second test session, instead, the light behaviour is completely based on the feedback collected during the first round.

These tests led me to think that it is possible to create a common light vocabulary that can be largely understood: people have a clear idea on what is easier for them and why (even if there are different opinions on the same behaviour).

The aim of this exploration is to design a vocabulary of light behaviours that shows people what their devices are doing. This vocabulary consists of light behaviours and gestures that can be applied to a wide range of contexts where devices (speakers, headphones, memory storage devices, cameras, laptops…) are communicating wirelessly. Today, connecting wireless devices is inconvenient: you have to go through interfaces that do not relate to the physical arrangement of the objects. It can also be difficult to understand which devices are connected and what they are communicating.
This “device language” gives a concrete representation of the intangible and invisible events that are taking place. It allows users to feel more in control by providing them with a direct interaction with the objects they are using.

The vocabulary is described though 3 main tools:

(1) a map of the light states/gestures matched with the most common activities of wireless devices.
The vocabulary consists in 2 different light feedbacks:
a. The Connection Light shows if the objects are connected and communicating with each other. The light intensity is proportional to the signal strength. The light blinks when the connection is lost. The connection light shows continuous communication.
b. The Control Light pulses if the networked objects are exchanging data. Colour indicates sender and receiver. The light turns solid when the transfer is complete and can signal an error if something goes wrong. The control light shows discrete communication.

The research also demonstrate the use of gestures in wireless devices. To make a connection, the user touches the two devices to each other.

(2) a set of prototypes which represent three-dimensionally the vocabulary

The light cubes are tools for an ongoing research on people’s reaction to different light behaviours. The purpose is to discover the most intuitive match between the light’s activity and the meaning we want it to deliver. The aim of my research is also to raise the attention given to light interfaces: light can be a core feedback tool, engaging the users’ peripheral attention and thus avoiding information overload.

(3) two scenarios visualizing the light behaviours as applied to different devices in everyday life situations.


  • Today it is so hard to guess what devices are saying because they don’t share the same vocabulary. Research on a “universal device vocabulary” could potentially reveal new opportunities to develop interaction tools.
  • People can easily connect light states to meaning.
  • There is a basic, universal set of functions for wireless devices that can be expressed through light status.
  • Well designed device-device communication can lead to more intuitive user-device interaction.

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