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MOON-LITE: Cast a ray of moonlight to help you on your way at night

A modular and reconfigurable system that is easy to install and can be used to make almost any space safer at night

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Who is your idea designed for and how does it enable older adults to live their best possible life by preventing falls?

MOON-LITEs form a modular and reconfigurable system that makes it easy to integrate low brightness illuminated "lites" into walls, handrails, and more to highlight architectural features without illuminating the full space (and making eyes adjust). They can make any space safer at night! MOON-LITE is built on Electro-Luminescent (EL) materials. These lighting components come in the forms of paint, panels, long strips, or wire, and can be configured to activate in response to touch or motion

The name MOON-LITE arose when we brought a prototype of this project to an assisted living community, where one of the residents said that they don't need lighting because they rely on moonlight to get to the bathroom at night.  

We took this as our archetypal persona, someone who is hesitant to add lighting to their environment at night perhaps because they think they don't need it, or because they have a partner sleeping next to them.

For Rose, we created three modules which work in tandem to make her life safer in seamless way, by augmenting her existing interactions. 

Consider how these three MOON-LITEs interact in the following scenario!

Rose wakes up hungry in the middle of the night.

The MOON-LITEs detect her motion and enter a low brightness mode, highlighting obstacles in the room, and making it easy for her to get a bit of extra guidance if she needs it.

When she grabs on to any MOON-LITE, all other lites enter a high brightness mode to give Rose a bit of extra assistance as she moves around.

On her way back to bed, she can tap on the outside of the light-switch to deactivate the MOON-LITEs, something not usually possible with a motion activated system or turn on the room lights if she needs to find a book on her shelf.  

If she forgets to tap the Light-Lite, the MOON-LITEs will all turn off automatically if they don't detect motion for a few minutes.

User Testing

We have performed several user studies in senior centers and nursing homes[1] around the Buffalo, NY area, with positive response from everyone from management to physical therapists, from building maintenance to the seniors themselves, who said:


A resident at a senior center enjoying a prototype MOON-LITE.

Grandma offering suggestions for making strip-lights more usable.

An example of how MOON-LITEs can be configured to trigger additional elements (here touch is controlling sound and projection).  These elements can be useful when integrating MOON-LITEs in contexts where the user has high levels of visual impairment.


[1] Interviews were conducted at: Center for Senior Services,  Tennyson Court Assisted Living & Memory Care, Weinberg Campus Retirement Community in Amherst, NY 

Existing Solutions

There are a number of existing solutions for adding night time lighting to living environments.  There are of course light switches and lamps on your bedside table. There are the ever present night lights.  There is the infamous clapper (which is sure to startle your partner).  More recently there has been an influx of motion sensitive LED lights, as well as time sensitive lights that only activate at night.  

There are also a number of app based wireless lighting controllers that are emerging.  

Why Moon-Lites?

We have spent the past two years developing a technology for prototyping applications for making electro-luminscent materials touch activated.

This board makes it possible for MOON-LITEs to offer several novel features over what is otherwise currently available.  

  • Touch them anywhere to turn up the brightness

The Whoa Board at the core of each MOON-LITE is the new technology which makes this possible!

  • A low brightness motion activated mode

MOON-LITEs are wirelessly networked and are configured to turn on in a very low brightness state when they detect motion.  This makes them easy to find, while making it less likely that they'll wake someone up if they roll over in bed, or if their cat comes into the room in the middle of the night. 

  • They can be turned off.

The Light-Lite integrates into any light switch cover, making it easy to tell your MOON-LITEs that you are done using them and you are ready for them to turn off, something not currently possible with more traditional motion activated systems.

  • Easy to integrate.  

EL materials come in paint, panels (like sheet of paper or strips of tape), or wires.  You don't need to call a contractor to install a complicated lighting system only to find that it doesn't work for you.  Just stick some tape on your wall.  If it doesn't make sense, move it around.  There is a low barrier for experimentation to help people arrive at the best solution for them.  Stick some tape on the edge of your furniture to make it easier to avoid at night.  

  • Seamless operation.

MOON-LITEs are simply evolutions of existing household objects.  There is no new interface to learn, you don't need to find a phone.  Simply continue moving around your space as you did before, but with more confidence!

What early, lightweight experiment might you try out in your own community to find out if the idea will meet your expectations?

We included a video above with some early experiements we did where we applied EL tape to a wall and then made it touch sensitive. We have also included a video of a handrail painted with electroluminescent paint. If connected with our circuit board, this could also be made touch sensitive. We are also currently distributing the circuit board which makes these materials touch sensitive and building a community experimenting with these sorts of applications (http://whoaboard.com/store).

What skills, input, or guidance from the OpenIDEO community would be most helpful in building out or refining your idea?

We'd love help in understanding what demand might exist for a product like this. Also, which architectural elements would be best to target? Using this technology, it is possible to mix EL elements with things like LEDs, and is straightforward to program complex interactions.

How long has your idea existed?

  • Over 1 year

This idea emerged from

  • A group brainstorm
  • A student collaboration

Tell us about your work experience:

Josh - Second Year CS PhD student (developed touch sensing technology with dad) Mom + Grandma - Inspiration, design guidance, heads of user research Ajinkya + Eric - Second Year MFA students in Integrated Media at UT Austin

How would you describe this idea while in an elevator with someone?

We want to augment interactions people already have to make their environments safer and more playful, particularly at night. Imagine path lighting that comes to life when you touch the railing, or a floor which plays music when you waltz (and reminds you of the steps when you forget). Imagine a bedside table that helps you turn on the lights, or call your daughter before you go to bed.

How does your idea demonstrate our Criteria of Affordability?

Light-emitting coatings are an emerging technology, and their cost is sure to decrease as supply chains expand. Until this happens, we aim to reach less advantaged communities by providing interactive lighting that is easy to install and customize to users specifications. We hope to reach assisted living communities, hospitals, nursing homes, public adult playgrounds and physical therapy offices. We also believe that by making MOON-LITEs modular, it becomes easier to try them out.

How does your idea demonstrate or plan to demonstrate scalability?

By focusing on augmenting common interactions which people already have (like using a railing to go up a flight of stairs, or rummaging around their bedside table at night) and by making a modular wireless system, we believe that MOON-LITEs are flexible enough to prove useful for a wide array of people.

How do you plan to measure the impact of your idea?

We did initial testing by rolling out our prototypes and getting feedback from small communities like Center for Senior Services (http://www.amherst.ny.us/govt/govt_dept.asp?dept_id=dept_19&menu_id=menu_00), Tennyson Court Assisted Living & Memory Care and Weinberg Campus Retirement Community in Amherst, NY. We believe that slowly polishing a product with concrete users is the best way to design something that people find useful.

What are your immediate next steps after the challenge?

We have already reached out to a senior center, apartment buildings, retirement communities and physical therapy offices who have provided a positive feedback on this technology. Going forward, we plan on continuing to engage with these communities and also recruit team members with expertise in business and industrial design to develop a more targeted and refined product.

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56 comments

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Photo of Robert Smith
Team

Congratulations Josh on your Top Idea!

Robert

Photo of Josh
Team

Thanks! You too!

Know how you will be moving forward?

Photo of Robert Smith
Team

Josh, I'm re-focusing on another project for now. Hope to return to StairWalker when I get some free time. How about you and your team?

Thanks, Robert

Photo of Rodney Lobo
Team

Hi Josh. I think that this idea is very good has so much potential. Having glowing railings will definitely help the elderly move around their house with more confidence.I was wondering about this when the lights are in their dim state: Many times, people when they are asleep, they experience twitching, and hypnagogic jerks. Have you thought about these things interfering with the motion sensors of MOON-LITE, and hence the sleeping user?
Another issue is that using short wavelength lights such as blue, can suppress the production of melatonin, which is very much needed for a person to fall asleep. Have you though about this issue while incorporating them into MOON-LITE?

Photo of Josh
Team

Hi Rodney,

Thanks for taking the time to write.

We have considered both of these things!

The main idea of the low brightness mode is that it allows the user to find the lights at night while reducing the likelihood that they get woken up by it. Many people have EL night-lights in their homes, and this would be similar (https://www.amazon.com/GE-55507-Electroluminescent-Night-Light/dp/B0017C7YRM). It would also be possible to deactivate the motion sensor (or to set a higher threshold) if it ended up interfering with the users sleep in a particular setting.

With regard to the wavelength of light, this is also something we've considered. EL lights come in a few different colors (like white, green, and orange: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LnwBj0u-vvA&index=11&list=UUFCNXWJfSRBiBKDBq5-UM9g), so there are certainly some options with this in terms of sleep hygiene. It is also possible to place a filter layer over the light emitting layer to further reduce the intensity of blue light at the cost of brightness.

It is also something that we've discussed in the context of mixing LEDs and EL materials in MOON-LITEs (for something like stair lighting). One option here is to use color changing LEDs and to have the color depend on the amount of ambient light.

Photo of Rodney Lobo
Team

Hi Josh. That sounds really nice. It is a nice option to have different colours of light for people with different tastes.

Photo of Srijay
Team

Hi,
Touch responsive luminescence itself is a great idea. Application to elders is awesome. Just curious how long (in terms of years) could this responsiveness last?

- Srijay

curbd: https://challenges.openideo.com/challenge/fall-prevention/finalfeedback/an-assistive-device-for-curb-elevation-detection

Photo of Josh
Team

Hi Srijay,

Thanks for the interest!

To answer your question, these materials have a half life of around 5000 hours (as far as we can tell). If they are only activated at night in response to motion, we believe that this is quite sufficient for the proposed application.

The touch sensitivity will work as long as the material is glowing!

Curious how you imagine that your proposal would be implemented. A computer vision system?

Photo of Srijay
Team

Hi Josh,

I have been researching Internet aware, vision library based option - using online photo libraries for a higher grade future version.
Current versions though is low cost, no internet access, no or low maintenance version for wider audience.

- Srijay

Photo of Josh
Team

Oh neat! I was recently talking to someone who was building a vision based interactive system. Really seems like the more you can do on device without internet connectivity, the more robust a system is.

This seems particularly true for elderly users, where a software bug can effectively brick a device until someone can come and help them get started with it again!

That said, this tech is getting pretty crazy! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aVdWED6kfKc

Photo of Srijay
Team

Hi Josh

Thanks for the link. I will certainly leverage it in my research. Thanks again.

- Srijay

Photo of Patrick Manuel
Team

Josh
Openideo Challenge
How might we enable older adults to live their best possible life by preventing falls? 


May 30, 2017

MOON-LITE: Cast a ray of moonlight to help you on your way at night

Kate Rushton thank you for bringing Josh’s project to my attention for input.
Josh, as an occupational therapist, when addressing falls in the elderly I consider two aspects, that is the home environment for hazards and the individual for limitations that contribute to falls. Recommendations often include a combination of interventions that target improving physical abilities to safely perform daily tasks, modifying the home, and changing activity patterns and behaviors. So we would evaluate intrinsic factors like lower-extremity weakness, impaired balance, cognitive impairment, urinary incontinence, sensory impairment (vision, hearing), fear of falling, side effects of medications and extrinsic factors like throw rugs and loose carpets, lighting glare, pets, clutter, uneven sidewalks, thresholds, unstable or nonexistent handrails.
Your idea is great for instances when environmental modification would contribute to safety and fall prevention. Your idea might also help people with low vision and dementia. People with dementia often do not scan their environment, may have tunnel vision and often have decreased ability to anticipate hazards and consequences. Your electro-luminescent system might be able to provide way finding visual cues and as you’ve demonstrated perhaps some auditory cues.
There could be demand for this sort of product in nursing homes and hospitals where they use bedside commodes for patients to use during the night. Often there are 2 people in a room and they might wish not to disturb a room mate. Your product could illuminate the commodes profile and outline the seat and catchment area below it.
Besides hallways, stairs…I would target thresholds, critical pieces of furniture that some people may use at night for stability when ambulating. In working with the elderly I know many who have come to rely on strategically place pieces of furniture for safety. Also your product may be useful if it was able to illuminate thresholds and changes in floor surfaces during the day as the low vision or mildly cognitively impaired person approached them.
Also, for people afflicted with Parkinson’s perhaps you could create a staircase illusion with your strips to improve mobility as demonstrated in this ted talk.
https://youtu.be/Gg5M3J_FHXY?t=3m
This is a great idea, I would suggest you target therapy departments in hospitals and Skilled nursing facilities, Home Depot and Lower hardware as well as Aging in place specialists. I look forward to following the development of your product. Please feel free to contact me for collaboration and consultation.

Regards
Patrick Manuel
Occupational Therapist
Post Professional Doctoral Student
Creighton University

Photo of Josh
Team

Hi Patrick!

Thanks for the detailed response! I can't find your contact info, but please reach out at josh[at]foolishproducts.com if you are interested in running some experiments with your patients! These all seem like great ideas, and it'd be fun to try some of them out if you are interested.

I particularly like the idea of highlighting furniture (it's something we talked about as well), as this seems like a common issue for which there doesn't exist a good method of lighting for at present!

Josh

Photo of Kate Rushton
Team

Hi Josh,

It is great to see how your idea has developed. It would be great to get the perspective of some Occupational Therapists in the Final Feedback stage e.g. Angie Boisselle Clarice Torrey Faith Watari Patrick Manuel Tamara Deangelis 

Photo of Josh
Team

Hi Kate,

Thanks for the prompt!

I've added a sketch (gif) of a potential rehabilitation game which we started developing (with the intention of integrating into a floor covering! We were inspired by things like: https://eldergym.com/falls-in-the-elderly.html and https://marthets.wordpress.com/2013/04/05/demensia-and-lights/

Would love to hear what practitioners think. Seems like there could be a fun game for seniors to play with grandchildren in here as well!

Photo of Josh
Team

Hmm, the openideo site seems to be confusing this gif. In case this is still happening, I mirrored it here: http://imgur.com/a/ICwZ6

Photo of Kate Rushton
Team

Hi Josh,

Would you say your idea is Most Viable or Most Promising? How would the incentives associated with that Award (Most Viable/Most Promising) be helpful for you? (the comments section is still open after the deadline of Monday 5 pm PT)

Congratulations on your successful Kickstarter campaign - https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/2055918540/whoa-board-dream-with-touch-sensing-el-wire-panels?

Photo of Josh
Team

Hi Kate,

Thanks! We're aaaaaalmost done fulfilling all the boards from that!

To your question, we'd obviously be honored to be considered for either.

The control board is a product that we do have actual stock of (finally), and a supply chain to make more, so that aspect of things is certainly "feasible". The glowing paint also exists, and the company that makes it is excited about collaborating on an experimental production run (they've been following along here). Accordingly, getting selected as most feasible would be helpful in that it would provide the capital needed to produce a pilot run of MOON-LITEs, and would provide an initial avenue for distribution and feedback in the CareConnection portal.

On the other hand, going through the OpenIDEO process made us really realize just how much work needs to go into delivering something that works seamlessly. To this end, it would be great to have the opportunity to sit down with an experienced product designer to see where their mind would go with MOON-LITEs.

Through the process of conducting interviews, my mom has also gotten excited about creating a tool that would enable Physical/Occupational Therapists to create interactive exercises for patients - and this would also be a place where we could benefit from IDEO's design services.

Photo of Chris Ashford
Team

Hi Josh. This is great. My guess is that there are other applications to this than fall prevention. Who doesn't need light when walking at night? Are you able to deploy outside in public areas?

Photo of Josh
Team

Hi Chris, glad you think so!

To a point, you'd need a UV coating, and won't make any promises on lifetime. EL is a really well established material though, so there should be best practices. This company seems experienced if you are curious (though I've never dealt with them) https://www.technolight.com/faqs.asp.

Photo of Kate Rushton
Team

Hi Josh

We’re impressed! Over 30 comments?! We want to point out that not everyone will have time to read all the comments, so make sure you've included information that has helped shape or pivot your idea in the description of your idea above. Keep up the amazing collaboration!

Photo of Josh
Team

Thanks Kate, we're working on figuring out the visual language now! We're definitely aiming to have something more comprehensive pulled together by the deadline.

Photo of Kate Rushton
Team

Hi Josh,

It is great to see the new updates to your post.

It would be helpful if you could mention how your solution fits in the market in the ‘full description’ section of your post. Who are your competitors and how is your idea unique?

If you have any questions, please feel free to reach out to me, my email address is krushton@ideo.com

Hope to see you on the refinement call this Friday at 9 am PST.

Photo of Josh
Team

Hi Kate!

Apologies that we were idle for so long! I was wrapping up the semester, and had limited bandwidth to devote to developing this more fully. Now that the semester has ended, we've teamed up with two designer friends who are particularly focused on issues in healthcare. Together we've been flushing out a more complete story of how touch sensitive lighting might be used within the home to prevent falls.

That's a great suggestion! Will post an update with a breakdown of what distinguishes our solution tomorrow.

In the meantime, I'd like to note that my mom has also taken an interest (as she currently spends a lot of her time helping my grandma). On monday she met with a physical therapist in Buffalo, NY, who had lots of ideas for how this technology might be incorporated into a rehab regimen for stroke patients, and we have meetings scheduled over the next few days at a few nursing homes/senior centers to gather feedback from seniors about the potential utility of having touch sensitive lighting integrated into their environments - and we've been bringing the content of these interviews to the designers that just joined the team.

Someone from our group will certainly be present on friday to check in (though I might not be able to make it due to some pre-existing travel plans). Apologies that we missed the last one :(.

Photo of Kate Rushton
Team

Hi Josh,

It is great to hear these new updates and the enthusiasm for the project. We do plan to record the call if you are not able to join us.

Photo of Robert Smith
Team

Hi Josh,

Lots of possibilities for your touch-EL technology!

While architectural features like handrails (and safety bars) are excellent candidates for touch illumination (very 'Tron'), I could also see this in combination with  @stepWise - Skill Building One Step At A Time -
Updated 5/7
 

Illuminating her obstacles could enable those with impaired eyesight to practice their maneuvering skills, or allow others to participate in the evening when lighting conditions are lower but outside temperatures may be more favorable. Visiting children will likely enjoy turning them on and off as their elders practice. Protecting the wiring against both weather and becoming a trip hazard would obviously be important for outdoor applications such as this.

Cool stuff! -Robert

Photo of Josh
Team

Hi Robert!

Yes! We were just talking about things like this when we were brainstorming yesterday.

One idea we discussed was maybe creating an environment like: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lWFG9pRpDTA, with an eye towards making it very accessible for people with restrictions on mobility/vision. The idea is that:
1. It could be a great collaborative activity between grandparents and children.
2. It could be a great setting to build confidence in night time mobility, and could give people ideas for how to modify their own homes to make them easier to navigate at night.

We have also been discussing the potential for touch sensitive light to be used in creating an exercise environment which provides feedback to people in a satisfying way (something like DDR https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=e0O1QUaMJiQ, but again targeted towards training skills which improve independence and individual mobility). We are still figuring out particular movements/exercises to target if you have any ideas in this vein!

Thanks for the kind words!

Josh

Photo of Gina Cardazone
Team

I wonder if this can be combined with some of the ideas in the StairWear submission to create touch sensitive tape or paint that can be put on stairs themselves, light only when one of the stairs is stepped on, and provide different colors or shapes for different stairs to better differentiate them. Just a thought!

Photo of Josh
Team

Hi Gina!

Yes! It definitely makes a lot of sense for a stair extension like StairWear to provide lighting in some form (either via motion or touch). Even laying down a strip of LEDs/EL in a safe (hard to trip on) place that are activated by something like a break beam or proximity sensor seems like a great (and unobtrusive) way of making an old house safer at night.

Another idea that we've also been considering (in the spirit of Changing Outlooks: Bannister Balance ) is to create a system which encourages seniors to be more active by leading them through a series of dynamic motion exercises by appropriately placing a web of touch activated panels around the house (where touching one panel activates the next).

We're currently discussing ideas with my grandma, who loves cooking and being active, but hates "pointless" exercising (and so is a great filter for figuring out what might actually be helpful).

Photo of Kate Rushton
Team

Hi Josh,

It is great to see all the comments on this post and insights and that your grandma is very much engaged in the process.

I look forward to seeing which one product idea you decide to create a user journey and product for in the refinement stages.

There are two finalist ideas from past OpenIDEO challenges you may want to check out:

https://challenges.openideo.com/challenge/financial-longevity/top-ideas/all-generation-friendly-atm - great prototyping, user testing and feedback

https://challenges.openideo.com/challenge/healthy-lives/top-ideas/rekindle-the-sweat-band - great use of user profiles, collaboration and user journey

I am going to tag a few people here who may be able to offer some input into which of the two option for testing might be the most interesting for the challenge and relevant to fall prevention, or they may offer alternative suggestions - Robert Smith Raheema Hemraj Devendra Natekar Brian Lazar 

Photo of Josh
Team

Hi Kate,

Thank you for the references, this is super helpful! We'll start working in this direction as we approach the refinement deadline.

Josh

Photo of eldy wullur
Team

I think because I am elderly, for us to take something at night is under the pillow or over the head. We do not need to change position when we reach it. Therefore we recommend that the lamp or flashlight should use a charger. We charge the batteries during the day.

Photo of Josh
Team

Hi eldy,

Thank you for the feedback. Let me bounce this back just to make sure I'm understanding. It sounds like you'd appreciate having a light accessible at night that you could activate without having to move too much? Is that right? What would you mostly use it for? Finding things like water/glasses/bedside lamp switch in the middle of the night, or for things like getting ready to turn on the room lights/going to the bathroom?

The idea here is that it might be possible to integrate touch sensitive lighting into (for instance) your headboard or nightstand, or as a strip that helps you find the wall to the bathroom or kitchen at night, in a way that would complement something like a handheld lamp.

Photo of Julin
Team

Great idea Josh. When I read the first comment from eldy wullur I was concerned that somehow you had not check with the potential users of the product to see how it would benefit them, but as I moved to other comments I noticed you asking for opinions how they could use it, and that made pleased in knowing that you had them in mind as beneficiary of your work.

Photo of Josh
Team

Thanks for the feedback Julin. Of course! This project is all about creating tools that make it easier for people to solve problems for themselves. We really like the idea of increasing people's autonomy, and this is doubly true for elderly people. Here we are particularly interested in developing patterns which can improve self-reliance/confidence in their own mobility.

We've been heads-down developing this technology for quite a while, so it's refreshing to have the opportunity to field all of the different perspectives here.

Photo of Kate Rushton
Team

Hi Josh!

Very interesting!

Where are you located?

Am I right in thinking this can be used to convert any existing handrail into a touch sensitive lighting solution? Therefore, there is potentially no need for older adults to buy new products, just add-ons.

What does your Grandma think?

I am copying Zandri Kuun  here who I am hoping can give feedback based on her experience as an interior architect.

Would you say you are a ‘most promising’ or a ‘most viable’ idea - https://challenges.openideo.com/challenge/fall-prevention/brief?

Am I right in thinking that the costs mentioned here - http://whoaboard.com/store/ - have a lot of potential to fall with scale?

Photo of Josh
Team

Hi Kate,

Thanks so much for facilitating! Addressing the questions in order.

____
I am located in Austin, TX. Our R&D/Distribution is based in Buffalo, NY.
____
The EL paint shown in the first video is developed by one of our partners. It can be applied to any handrail, but in terms of distribution it would make sense to do a larger run to cut down on cost (as their application process is currently somewhat involved).
____
With regard to creating a modular system, this could be a good model! The board we've developed can do touch sensing on 4 independent channels as is - but this could easily be expanded for product design purposes. Once you have a "brain" to enable touch sensing, it should be fairly agnostic of what's plugged into it - and could support an ecosystem of touch sensitive lighting solutions. Our kickstarter materials from the fall document some other early experiments (video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yz4XkeJIH2c - gifs: https://imgur.com/gallery/1n4Jn)
____
Grandma likes it, but wants me to focus on school (she was a doctor, wants people to have a set path).
____
We'd like to be considered for "most viable". It wouldn't take long for us to get the hardware for a pilot trial together.
____
Yes we expect the costs to fall considerably if we reach volumes where it makes sense to talk to component manufacturers directly.
____

Thanks again!

Photo of Zandri Kuun
Team

Hi Kate Rushton and Josh, Great idea Josh! I think the main challenge will be to have a clean and well integrated design (e.g. figuring out the power source), and making all of this affordable!I think a good application for this would be the table top of bedside tables. The majority of falls among the elderly happen when they transition from one position to another, and as Lite-rail is related to visibility, it is especially appropriate when the elderly get up at night to go to the toilet or get something to drink. This can also inspire other applications (i.e the route the elderly takes to the toilet or kitchen during the night). Have you thought of having a chain reaction, e.g. when they touch the bedside table their route to the bathroom lights up in anticipation?

Good luck! I'm looking forward to see how your idea develops.

Photo of Josh
Team

Hi Zandri Kuun.

Yes! That would be a great place for it (though it would need to be mindful of the fact that many already have bedside lamps).

Currently it can be powered over usb from any wall cellphone charger (or battery pack), and we're working on a second power supply board which would allow for much larger surfaces to be illuminated. The board is about the size of a business card - so it's not too hard to find an out of the way place for it when installing.

Affordability is certainly a concern. We were thinking that it might make sense to initially roll out to places like nursing homes and hospitals, which might have a bit more budget for building out their spaces. This came up in another comment, but EL panels themselves are a commodity material (see, for instance: https://www.amazon.com/GE-55507-Electroluminescent-Night-Light/dp/B0017C7YRM).

We have considered the idea of triggering something like a (bath)room light with it. We'll hopefully be publishing plans of such an installation this summer.

Also, just for fun because it seems like something you'd appreciate, we just uploaded a piece some students in the MFA lighting design program at UT Austin put together for a festival on campus last week: https://youtu.be/TkJp265pNSE

Photo of Zandri Kuun
Team

Yes, many people do have bedside tables, but it may be difficult to find the on switch at night, and this mitigates the problem. Great to hear that you are thinking about the product holistically and that you are having fun!

Photo of Josh
Team

You're right! Maybe we'll try to experiment with a something for the bedside, that could be a nice application. Seems like it's something people have experimented with, but there's probably room to make something a little more seamless than: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lvhpWa9iLEU

Photo of eldy wullur
Team

Hello Josh,

For elderly lighting is very important, given that the ability to see has been greatly reduced and confidence is also reduced when walking especially at night.

Photo of Josh
Team

Thanks for the feedback! What sort of lighting do you think is most important to elderly people? How would you like to see something like this used?

Photo of Mayra Ivelisse Rodriguez
Team

Amazing idea! Have you considered integrating led lighting to floors?

Photo of Josh
Team

Thanks.

We have done a few small experiments combining the touch sensitive EL with LEDs, but we'd love to see more! Seems like there are a few other ideas in this vein that have been submitted here!

LightWay , NITEPATH , Luminous Loos

Photo of Philip
Team

This idea has all the hallmarks of creating some really great products. I admire how well it has been researched.... well done. 
I am sure that there will be lots of other potential applications for younger people too (and the general public).
Looking at maintenance costs: what is the estimated lifespan of the electroluminescent tape and paint? I presume that might be the major regular maintenance cost?

Good luck............

Photo of Josh
Team

Philip! Thank you, it has certainly turned out to be a bit of a rabbit hole!

You ask a great question. The short answer is, roughly ~3-5000 hours half-life going by manufacturers specs.

That said, this depends quite a bit on the particulars of which material, and how it's driven. We haven't actually had a chance to do any lifetime testing ourselves, so it's not something we can speak to with much authority. You are correct that this would be the primary maintenance cost. Our initial thought was to apply this to "smart clothes", where the life span of the lighting element would not be the limiting factor, but our experiments have led us to believe that there is also a place for this technology in architectural lighting.

If you are curious to learn more, this is a pretty good write-up of the history of EL materials: http://www.indiana.edu/~hightech/fpd/papers/ELDs.html

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I love all the work you've put into this project. Do you think this will be hot? If there is a way to not make the light hot, then I think this is the next big thing in fall prevention!

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Hi Isabel,

EL materials are cool to the touch! One of the side effects of them not being very bright is that they don't draw much power (and so don't have much room to heat up).

Glad you think so!

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Josh,
Your Lite-Rail has so many potential applications...more responsive lighting especially at night is so critical to help with walking without falling.
Kate Rushton suggested I reach out to you for a potential application in the idea I posted - Changing Outlooks: Bannister Balance. The gist of the idea is to actively engage older folks whenever they climb/descend stairs in their homes, improving strength and balance in a fun way....by using rock climbing-inspired handholds affixed to the railings. I thought there might be potential for a customized sequencing in several ways: 1) If a hold could sense a hand placed in it, the next hold in the sequence could light up, cueing the person where to reach next (like the banana in your video!) 2) A variation of hold sequences could be programmed (think elliptical stair machine or bike trainer) 3) Once a hold is touched, a corresponding foot placement outlined on the stair would light. These are just initial ideas awaiting input from both rock climbing folks in the OpenIDEO community (yes! there are some!), and from physiologists with expertise in assessing abilities for developing educational programs and customizing training sequences.

There are still many questions, but your electro-luminescent technology could be key in executing the interactive aspect of these adaptive bannisters - and make them fun. All the holds and footprints on the steps could be soft-lit at night, if traversing the stairs then is necessary. So yes, stairs and railings have my vote for most important architectural elements to target.

Questions: Do you think your lights would generate enough light to be effectively used in the daytime? Could the intensity of the light be controlled for daytime vs. nighttime, by the user? RE: programming, could the installment be such that timing, color, and light intensity in a Balanced Bannister could be changed or customized as a physiologist might recommend over time as physical abilities change?

Good luck with your progress - it's a great idea, and I hope you get many different ideas for its application!

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Hi Susan!

Thanks for taking the time to post such detailed thoughts!

This sort of thing has certainly been tried (at least on a small scale): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oI7kLrpoqMs, but it would certainly be interesting to experiment with handholds that light up directly instead of via projection. We'd be happy to help you get in touch with our partners developing EL paint if you'd like to get some samples made!

Regarding daylight use: Most lights work better at night, and EL materials in particular are best suited for environments with low levels of ambient light. That said, if you'd like something that works in both settings, it might be nice to mix an LED with and EL panel, to get something dim and diffuse at night, and bright during the day.

Our system is open source (and quite DIY at the moment). We've got some of example code posted here: https://github.com/foolish-products/whoaboard_getstarted#quick-start-

The board is fairly straightforward to reprogram, and is straightforward to expand with a bluetooth compatible radio: http://imgur.com/CTBwMLO

Thanks again for the kind words!

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Josh - Great reply, thanks so much! The folks at Brooklyn Boulders Somerville had a good idea for gamification....like you I do like the thought of handholds lighting directly, and will consider both the EL and LED mix. But BBS's strategy of making their environment socially engaging, diversified with art, music, food, plus climbing to keep people excited and returning is really strong. I'm not too far from them in MA - will check them out! Tnx also for being DIY - lots of potential. Good luck, will keep a close eye on your progress!

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Congratulations on being today's Featured Contribution!

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Thank you for the feature! We really appreciate it!

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Hi Josh,
I am sure your grandma will appreciate your efforts. As for the touch could you use motion sensors instead so that if a person just waves their hand around the sensor the light could activate. It might be hard to locate an object in dark conditions. A motion sensor would be easier to use in dark conditions. Just my thoughts. I can be wrong. Really happy to see your prototype.

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Hi Manjunath,

Thank you for the kind words!

This is quite possible with the current board, and a something that would certainly be interesting to test with a larger group.

We certainly feel like there are situations where it is more natural to trigger these elements with touch over motion detection. For instance, if you live in a small space and had several such elements integrated, it might be frustrating to have them randomly turn on because they detected your motion from across the room.

Another idea we've also discussed is using an EL element as a light switch, where when you touch it, it goes dim and the room lights turn on (and visa versa). EL nightlights are already pretty ubiquitous (https://www.amazon.com/GE-55507-Electroluminescent-Night-Light/dp/B0017C7YRM), and it could be a good way of helping an elderly person find the light switch at night.

I'll actually be helping someone build a prototype of this setup in their apartment this summer! We'll be documenting it and publishing plans!