Association of lighting and use of environments

Research was conducted to explore actions/associations and reasons for people to choose to speed more time in particular rooms in their homes. Exposing people to naturally illuminated rooms, which were seasonally dark revealed effects of lighting on time spent (inside those rooms) and the differences in activities/task people performed in those environments.

Primary research results:

Case 1

In the case of a better illuminated bedroom during daytime. The bedroom provided an environment for sleeping and changing clothes, entertainment and work related tasks were usually done in defined rooms, such as a study or living room. A better illuminated bedroom did not make this person feel compelled to do study or utilize the space for computer activities more in the bedroom because they already had association of other rooms  with those activities. However, the space was described as more pleasant and they were open to the idea using the space more often if they had more furniture in there;  like a desk and chair.

Case 2

Poorly lit living room, started out as a advantage for this person as they liked to often watch movies/TV shows in darkness and the only light source being the TV screen. The living room was arranged with couches at the sides, coffee table in the center and a TV console at the front. Minimal light entered from a large panoramic window at the front side of the house during this time of year, making it a comfortable viewing environment in this case. Introducing more natural light into the room affected this persons view of this living space a purely entertainment environment to possibility of it being a place for social gathering. The amount of light in the room was comparable to how bright their kitchen environment was, which was usually where their friends and family gather and converse.




Batteryless Wireless Doorbell

It’s not magic. It’s just kinetic energy.

YouTube channel Techmoan took apart a wireless doorbell to figure out what made it tick. The doorbell was a little unusual: There was no battery or wiring needed, yet it seemed to ring just fine. What Techmoan found on the inside was a piezoelectric device. Essentially, the doorbell has a teeny-tiny alternator. Pushing down on the button creates a mechanical force, and piezoelectricity uses this as a micro-power source to produce a low-power signal. It’s just enough to ring the doorbell, and can theoretically withstand frequent usage.

Piezoelectric technology has been around since the late 19th century. The basic mechanism is the tension or stress from deformation of the underlying mechanical parts, something akin to very slight amounts of kinetic energy. Piezoelectric devices are commonly incorporated into crystal radios, as quartz is a piezoelectric conductor affected by vibrations.

Article by  Mar 16, 2016

  • Alternatively a batteryless operation for a light switch that could toggle the heliostat would be most convenient.
  • Could be used in conjunction with a solar powered pulse motor mechanism to create an emotional remote control for the heliostat.

Solar pulse motor toys

Tend to be know as solar flip flap toys, dancing solar toys, solar powered flapping toy etc…

A full tear down and itemization of a solar powered toy by Nadia of MIT Media Lab:

This is a solar-powered toy in the form of a flower.  When it is powered, the flower petals move up and down.

Summary of how the toy works:

  • The two petals are coupled mechanically such that when one moves, the other one also moves.
  • One of the petals acts as a pendulum with a magnet at the base of it.
  • When the toy is powered, pulses of electrical current are sent through a voice coil, which is placed at the base of the toy; this creates a magnetic field running along the axis of the voice coil.
  • These pulses of magnetic field from the voice coil pull the magnet toward the voice coil to cause the petal’s pendulum to swing back and forth.

Alternative styles of this type of mechanism:

  • The pulse motor can be used to create a pendulum effect with varying amplitudes of swinging and also spinning.
  • This mechanism can be used as a vehicle to explore how emotion can manifest through products, more specifically the relation to the positive affect of sunlight to health/ well being.

Object Tracking Heliostat Array

by Joel Thomas Master  March 2011

The system tracks a target object using a CMOS camera and the heliostat determines the required angles to reflect the sun at the target. Calculations are made to compensate for the targets and suns movement.

I wanted to track the location of a companion device such as a lamp shade within a house but after viewing this research it seems less possible.

  • From the video it is plausible to track a large brightly coloured target at close distances outdoors with no obstructions in the cameras line of sight.
  • Using a tracking system like this in my project for what I intend to do is impossible because the CMOS needs LOS, which cannot be obtained as a target needs to be viewed at a significant distance (1-15m) through a window that could have exterior security measures in place and blinds on the inside.
  • For my project I’ll require the user to point the device at a target of their choice, possibly even multiple targets and save those locations to memory. Allowing the choice of switching targets with a controller depending on the room that is being occupied.

Eggbot – Related Hardware PCB

DIY Arduino controlled Egg-Bot by

Really simple electronics:

  • stepper motor driver A4988
  • atmega328
  • 16Mhz crystal
  • 1.2Kohm resistor
  • 100uF ceramic capacitor
  • voltage regulator
  • microswitch
  • LED
  • 12V 2A PSU
Connect like fritzing image or make PCB


Another one: by Mark Benson

Arduino Nano – Dual Stepstick drawing machine controller PCB for Eggbot/ Shperebot/ polargraph drawing machines. The reason this uses an Arduino Nano and external stepstick drivers is that they can be found on ebay for not much money and I wanted this to be an affordable way to build the electronics for various drawing machines.


SatNOGS – Useful hardware resource


SatNOGS Project provides detailed open source hardware design to control a dual axis satellite tracker. This tracking system moves the Azimuth and Altitude which are also utilized by sun trackers and heliostats.

  • This design uses readily available components which are commonly found in reprap style 3D printers
  • Use of worm geared steppers is the most appropriate choice for driving heavy loads with the benefit of self-locking gears
  • Motion control through worm gears  occupy a lot less space compared to linear actuators or lead screw driven designs



Testing Hypothesis

The setup:

  • 450x600mm glass mirror mounted on a tripod head with strong double sided mounting tape
  • Mirror was positioned so it was in view of the sun throughout the day
  • Window that the heliostat is targeting has a security mesh on the exterior face of the building and a thin curtain on the interior living room
  • A lux meter will be used to objectively measure the difference in ambient lighting

Part of the house is in perpetual darkness throughout the day as the sun travels from east to west. Sunlight struggles to reach the living room, making it less pleasant to use. This part of the year is the Autumn Equinox, we have approximately equal day and night exposure.

There is a significant difference (10 fold improvement) in the amount of light entering the room through the window when the heliostat targets the upper wall. I was unable to target the white ceiling as the room has a very high walls.

  • The maximum light level was around 580 lux towards the window, falling off to around 120 in the darkest part of the room.
  • Projection of the security bars was less noticable as a distance, a fuzzy cluster of light.
  • When an opaque diffuser like a polypropylene container lid is held in front of the beam of reflected sunlight, the projection of the security bars is focused and clearly defined.
  • An opaque diffuser did not affect the overall lux in the room but redirected the high concentration of light at the window to the container lid

Hypothesis – illuminating rooms

From researching existing heliostat designs in domestic applications, all of them suggest the user to point device to target something that has a mostly white surface to achieve the most illumination in a room. This is suggested through the targeting of existing lighting fixtures in a room like lamp shades and also white ceilings or walls. The benefit of this is the concentrated beam of light from the mirror is scattered when it hits a white surface, thus raising the ambient light level in the surrounding around.

A perceived increased in lux level can greatly improve the function of a existing room which would be otherwise not used when it is dimly lit.

I’ll test my theory about the scattering effect of the sunlight from the mirror. To see if there is a difference in the level of lux in a room if the reflected light is diffused before it reaches a desired target (lamp shade/ceiling/wall).

  • What effect does a diffuser have on the reflected light?
  • How much difference does a heliostat make in illuminating a room?
  • Do security bars on windows affect the performance of the heliostat?





Aurore, made for the exhibition Objet Lumière, produces surprising effects and tints. By using a dichroic film and depending on its position against the wall, it creates some amazing rainbows. When the lamp is switched off, the disc acts as a mirror that changes every reflect in unexpected vivid colors.


Aurore by Ferréol Babin

Sunflower Heliostat

With the Sunflower you can bring in more sunshine, get some feel-good light, and reduce your carbon footprint. Now you can have all the benefits of sunlight wherever you want to.

Use the Sunflower to light up a room or bring more sunlight to your plants. The Sunflower is your own personal sun. Having trouble determining the best place to put it? We’ve got some useful tips and templates for you to use.