The privilege of working under the open sky is reserved for just a few lucky professions. For the less fortunate majority, spending their working hours surrounded by gloomy office landscapes, the soothing sight of clouds drifting through the sky is unattainable. Setting up office cubicles in the open would do the trick but it’s hardly a practical option, especially in places where the weather cannot be trusted. Fortunately, researchers from the Fraunhofer Institute for Industrial Engineering (IAO), based in Stuttgart, Germany, know what else can be done to bring a little outdoor comfort to the office-bound. They built a dynamic luminous ceiling which allows office dwellers to gaze at clouds without ever leaving their desks.
As clouds shift shapes and move through the sky, the intensity of sunlight we experience on the ground is in constant flux. When replicated indoors, such lighting conditions could help entice the feeling of freedom and spaciousness that we associate with being outdoors. However, it takes more than attaching a set of your regular LCD TVs to a ceiling and playing footage of a cloudy sky to pull this off. The IAO researchers teamed up with LEiDs GmbH, an LED technology company, to make sure their ceiling simulates natural light conditions on a partially-cloudy day as accurately as possible.
…A combination of red, blue, green and white diodes is used to produce the full light spectrum, which translates into over 16 million possible hues. This means the set-up is able to simulate dynamic changes in lighting conditions that are not immediately obvious to the naked eye. They may, however, influence your effectiveness at work…
For now, the prototype sky takes up 34 square meters of ceiling real estate and uses 32,560 LEDs to provide light with the intensity of over 3,000 lux (500 to 1000 lux is already enough to create comfortable lighting conditions). A small section of this virtual sky is going to be exhibited at the beginning of March in Hanover, Germany, during the CeBIT tradeshow, so you still have some time to talk your bosses into buying one of these. At the moment, the sky comes at 1000 euros per square meter, but the price is likely to come down with the solution growing in popularity.
I showed this to friends who work in a pretty typical American cube-farm and they thought the idea was terrific. Pay attention, boss!