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How might light communicate personal space, in a collaborative setting?

Fall 2014
Working electronic/lighting prototype, engineering

Commercial Coworking Facilities are open-office Facilities for freelancers and the self employed. The spaces are focused on community, collaborative atmosphere, familiar faces, common ground and ability for networking.  My objective of this project was to create a task light for collaborative work environments. Light can be used to establish an environment. It is also a vehicle for individual productivity and task. 


Modular light system are embedded into tables and workstations in a variety of configurations. Each system has a task light attached by a hinge. The light is activated upon lifting up the unattached end of the light. Upon activation of the light, illuminated icons appear on the surface of the table. These illuminated icons are touch sensitive as sensors which control the brightness of the tasklight are co-located, beneath the surface of the table.  Users move their finger along this illumination to control the brightness of the task lamp. Once the task light is down, the task light de-activates, and the touch sensitive icons are no longer visible/activated, leaving a completely unobtrusive workspace. A touch sensitive icon rastered into the wood activates a privacy low-level LED indicator to signal the need for solitude and focus.

How do we stay connected with others, while keeping our own sense of personal space?



The percentage of American workers who work exclusively from home grew by 37% between 1997 and 2010. However, this demographic often misses the personal narrative of working in an office.  The need to be socially connected is fundamentally human.  As a result, commercial coworking facilities are a growing trend across the country, providing a shared working environment for people who are self employed or working for different employers. 


Working together is about something simple: face time with other human beings.  However, there is also a need to define space as individuals and the ability to go to a private space is not always possible. 


Working in a collaborative work environment without the ability to close yourself off into an office, you gain connectivity, but lose a sense of privacy.  Therefore it is necessary to find a way to adapt to the environment..

How do we indicate the need for personal space in public? 



Headphones provide the essence of a wall and create a way for users to control an otherwise uncontrolled environment. 

During my site visit to a coworking space, it was hard to tell when a user was busy or didn’t want to be engaged.  Visual cues were important.  Headphones are a subtle, yet effective way to signal to others.


A Line In The Sand

In a shared environment, users use personal affects to create borders or indicate personal space.


Using light as a visual gesture to create a solution that was as unobtrusive as possible, in consideration of an open communal environment and the unique property of light as something that has physicality without actually being physical.


The technology behind my design depends on touch capacitance.  It’s interaction-based as at first it bears the appearance of a plain wood desktop, but by activating the task light and a swipe over sensors housed beneath wood veneer, LED lights are activated beneath the surface,with a touch .  


The sensors activate a privacy light and control task light brightness. The sensors are controlled through an Arduino board - a micro processor programmed in C which can control basic electronic circuits.  I worked with an engineer to program the capacitance capabilities with the arduino.


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