Lightpack lighting system seeks crowd funds

April 29, 2013 | 11:11

Tags: #ambilight #crowdfunding #monitor #open-hardware

Companies: #kickstarter #lightpack #open-source

A team of open-source engineers have launched a Kickstarter crowd-funding project with a view to bring content-driven ambient lighting to all.

The Lightpack concept isn't a new idea: Philips Ambilight, on which the system is shamelessly based, has been around for years, offering content-specific ambient lighting on selected models of HDTVs. Like Lightpack, Ambilight works by analysing the on-screen image and then using a series of RGB LEDs to spray matching colours out behind the set - giving the image the impression of extending beyond the confines of the TV's frame. While not as immersive as Microsoft's prototype Illumiroom technology, which ditches the LEDs for a projector, fans of the system swear it improves the viewing experience immeasurably.

The technology has other benefits, too: the team behind Lightpack claim that using ambient lighting to increase the overall brightness of the room can reduce distress to the musculature of the eye when viewing content in the dark, citing a scientific study carried out for Philips back when it was developing Ambilight.

Ambilight, however, works only on selected Philips TV sets with the technology built-in. While homebrew versions of the technology exist, most notably the Adafruit Adalight kit, which uses an Arduino and some clever software to add the functionality to any monitor or TV, these fail to offer a friendly out-of-the-box experience.

That's where Lightpack comes in. Using specially-developed software dubbed Prismatik, which is compatible with Windows, Linux and OS X, the system captures the content currently on the screen and analyses it in order to adjust the ambient lighting at the rear of the monitor. So far, so like the Adalight - but Lightpack attempts to make things as user-friendly as possible, and will ship in a ready-to-use form which just needs connecting to the rear of the monitor or TV.

The brainchild of open hardware specialist Mike Sannikov, who has joined forces with Tim Sattarov and Dmitry Gorilovsky to bring his creation to the wider market, Lightpack predates the Adalight: Sannikov has been selling early batch-produced versions of the device in Russia for a year now, with over 1,000 shipped. A further 4,000 people are believed to have taken advantage of the open nature of the project - Sannikov has published all source code, schematics and PCB design files for the project under a permissive licence, allowing anyone with the know-how to create their own - the project is already a resounding success.

The Kickstarter cash, the team explains, is required to get the project ready for mass, rather than batch, production, and to refine the design to enable the device to be sold as cheaply as possible. Some of the cash is also required to put the system through emissions and safety certification, without which it can't be sold in the US, EU or Canada.

The technology isn't quite at the level of Philips Ambilight: Lightpack works only with a Windows, Linux or OS X computer, while Philips' system - embedded as it is into the TV itself - works with any connected devices, including consoles, Blu-ray players and set-top boxes. For those who do most of their viewing through a computer, however, that's a minor concern - and the pre-order cost of just $90 including international shipping via Kickstarter is certainly cheaper than buying a whole new TV.

The project has already reached 3,276 backers and a total of $241,448 of its extremely precise $261,962 goal, and with 32 days left on the clock it looks likely that Lightpack will achieve its aim with plenty of time to spare. If you're curious, or fancy pledging some of your own cash, visit the Lightpack Kickstarter page, or check out the below demonstration of the technology from March last year.

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