U of T startup Nanoleaf moves light beyond the bulb with Aurora modular smart panels
For over 100 years lighting options for consumers have largely remained the same. Now, U of T startup Nanoleaf is changing the way we look at light. “We’re moving people away from that old way of thinking where light comes out of a bulb, a single point and source,” said Gimmy Chu, U of T engineering alumni and co-founder of Nanoleaf. Their newly launched product, the Aurora, is the first ever modular smart lighting kit with panels that can be assembled in a variety of different shapes and can emit an endless spectrum of vibrant colours. “We wanted to create a product where you can put something up on your ceiling or your wall and that entire surface is filled with light. You don’t necessarily know where that light’s coming from, it’s just very gentle and comforting.” Inspired by nature’s greatest light show, the Aurora Borealis, the product aims to enhance the everyday lives of their customers by recreating the soft and ambient lighting that we experience in the outdoors. “The whole concept of light animation is sort of like music for your eyes,” said Chu. “I think the closest thing to that is watching sunsets as the colours move and change. If we can recreate the sky inside then I can’t imagine how light can get any better than that.” However the triangular LED-light panels are assembled in the physical world, they will also be mirrored on the Nanoleaf Smarter Series app that lets the user choose their lighting effects and even schedule time triggers for the Aurora to turn on or off remotely. “If you’d like to wake up to the sunrise you could create a lighting animation that looks like the sunrise and every morning, say at 8 am, even on the darkest winter mornings you could have the sunrise in your room.” While completely customizable, the Aurora will also come with four lighting presets: a romantic setting featuring red and pink hues; disco party with alternating colours at varying speeds; waves, with light and dark blues floating across the panels; and Northern Lights, a nod to the startup’s Canadian roots. No longer just a means to an end, lighting can now be a design statement, an environmentally friendly choice, or, with the help of Nanoleaf, both. All Nanoleaf’s products, including their Smarter Seriesand their dimmable bulbs that work without a dimmerare energy efficient and sustainable tech. The Aurora’s LED panels provide up to 25,000 hours of light, compared to a traditional incandescent bulb’s lifespan of approximately 1,200 hours. The Aurora is now available for sale onlineor in person at 300 Best Buys across Canada and the United States. The nine-panel starter pack retails at $199, with three to 30 panel expansion packs available for purchase. They are compatible with Apple HomeKit, Android and Amazon Alexa.