Light Tubes: A sustainable design

When people think of sustainable designs they often focus on the outside, concerning themselves with making the structures of buildings sustainable. However, there are many components that can be installed inside a building to increase its sustainability. One fine example is the light tube or light pipe. Light tubes are used for transporting or distributing daylight. As a result they are often called tubular daylighting devices, sun pipes, sun scopes, or daylight pipes. No matter what you call it, the light tube is an excellent way to increase the sustainability of interior designs.

Light tubes take advantage of natural light thereby decreasing the need for artificial light. Natural lighting is an important tool in attaining sustainability. The generation of electricity is one of the largest contributors of pollution in the United States, which produces harmful chemicals such as sulfur dioxide, carbon, and mercury emissions. Production of electric power can also be linked with other environmental issues such as the impact on water quality, increased production wastes, and increased industrial zones. Therefore, reduction in the use of artificial lighting is vital for increasing sustainability.


Light tubes can be used in both the residential and commercial setting effortlessly with many advantages. Light tubes provide exceptional lighting. In fact the light output is incredible, providing as much light as you would expect from a skylight many times its size. It is also cost-effective. Light tubes cost considerably less than other daylighting options, such as windows and skylights, including both product and installation costs. It can also be installed with ease. They require no structural reframing, tunneling, drywalling or painting. Light tubes can also go about anywhere. The compact and flexible design allows them to be installed in just about any room, including rooms without direct roof access and smaller spaces where daylighting would usually not be an option. Light tubes are also “green.” Light tubes allow you to switch off electric lights during the day, which provides savings on energy bills and also as stated before reduces environmental pollution. Light tubes are beneficial to your health. It has been show in several prominent studies that increasing daily exposure to natural light can enhance mental and physical well-being, boost concentration and energy levels. It is apparent that Light tubes are extremely advantageous along with being environmentally friendly.


The Light tube is essentially a tube lined with highly reflective material that leads the light rays through a building starting from an entrance-point located on its roof or on the outer wall. The entrance point usually comprises a dome, which has the function of collecting and reflecting as much sunlight as possible into the tube. Many units also take advantage of directional “collectors,” “reflectors” or even Fresnel lens devices that assist in collecting additional directional light down the tube. Light transmission efficiency is greatest if the tube is short and straight. In longer, angled, or flexible tubes, part of the light intensity is lost. To minimize losses, a high reflectivity of the tube lining is crucial. At the end point, a diffuser spreads the light into the room. To further optimize the use of solar light, a heliostat can be installed which tracks the movement of the sun, thereby directing sunlight into the light tube at all times of the day as far as the surroundings’ limitation allow, possible with additional mirrors or other reflective elements that influence the light path. The heliostat can be set to also capture moonlight at night.


The design of the Light tube makes it a great sustainable design. The Light tube’s ability to transfer daylight into areas that normally would experience none, helps cut down on the use of artificial lighting. The decrease in artificial lighting, in turn, minimizes pollution. Overall, the Light tube is a superior way to include sustainability into interior designs.

Augmented Reality with SixthSense

The basic idea of augmented reality is to superimpose graphics, audio and other sensory enhancements over a real-world environment in real time. Augmented reality blurs the line between what’s real and what’s computer generated by enhancing what we see, hear, feel and smell. Different from virtual reality, augmented reality adds to the natural world as it exists, enhancing one’s perception of reality. While many devices like video games and cell phones have been driving the development of augmented reality, other companies have recently started delving into this technology. Augmented reality is changing the way we view the world and devices like SixthSense are making it a reality for many.

hand_phoneSome of the most exciting augmented-reality work is taking place in research labs at universities around the world. At the TED conference, Pattie Maes and Pranav Mistry presented their augmented-reality system, which they call SixthSense. The SixthSense device turns any surface into an interface that you can physically interact with. You can watch a video, surf the internet, or make a phone call on virtually any surface where and when you want them. This prototype even lets you take a photograph by simply holding your hand in the air and making a “framing” gesture. The SixthSense prototype is a wearable gestural interface that augments the physical world around us with digital information and lets us use natural hand gestures to interact with that information.

systemThe SixthSense prototype is comprised of a pocket projector, a mirror and a camera. The hardware components are coupled in a pendant-like wearable mobile device. The projector and the camera are connected to the mobile computing device in the user’s pocket. The projector projects visual information enabling surfaces, walls and physical objects to be used as interfaces; while the camera recognizes and tracks user’s hand gestures and physical objects using computer-vision bases techniques. The software program processes the video stream data captured by the camera and tracks the locations of the colored markers (visual tracking fiducials) at the tip of the user’s fingers using simple computer-vision techniques. The movements and arrangements of these fiducials are interpreted into gestures that act as interaction instructions for the projected application interfaces. The maximum number of tracked fingers is only constrained by the number of unique fiducials, thus SixthSense also supports multi-touch and multi-user interaction.

sixthsense_watchThe SixthSense prototype implements several applications that demonstrate the usefulness, viability and flexibility of both the system and the augmented reality technology. The map application lets the user navigate a map display on a nearby surface using hand gestures, similar to gestures supported by Multi-Touch based systems, letting the user zoom in, zoom out or pan using intuitive hand movements. The drawing application also lets the user draw on any surface by tracking the fingertip movements of the user’s index finger. SixthSense also recognizes the user’s gestures. SixthSense will capture an image of what the user is looking at when it detects the “framing” gesture. The user can then stop by any surface or wall and flick through the photos he/she has taken. The gesture of drawing a circle on the user’s wrist projects an analog watch. SixthSense also lets the user draw icons or symbols in the air using the movement of the index finger and then recognizes those symbols as interaction instructions. For example, drawing a magnifying glass takes the user to the map and drawing an @ symbol lets the user check his mail.

Augmented reality is truly a fascinating technology and I believe devices like SixthSense are on their way to becoming the computers of the future. Although SixthSense is currently just a prototype, over time, I believe it will become the new “must-have” device.

Green Roofs: A Sustainable Design

Green roofs aren’t particularly a new innovation; however, a resurgence in sustainable-focused living has helped increase the popularity of these “living roofs” in major cities across the US. Green roofs are roofs partially or completely covered with vegetation such as native grasses and flowering plants like lavender. Customers are finding the modern green roof beneficial, both environmentally and financially, and as the demand for green roofs increases companies like Greensulate are coming to the forefront in green roof production.

What started out as a 10-person company has seen a 400 percent growth in business in 2010 in the wake of the green roof trend. As a result, Greensulate has been named by Businessweek “one of America’s Most Promising Startups.” Greensulate specializes in constructing green roofs. Very simply put a green roof is a living extension of an existing or newly constructed roof. It incorporates a water proofing membrane and root barrier, a green roof system, a drainage system, and a lightweight growing medium and plants. Each green roof Greensulate makes is unique, reflecting its owner’s needs, the particulars of the roof, and the geographic location of the building. There are three types of green roofs: extensive, intensive and hybrid. Extensive has a growing medium less than 6 inches while intensive has a growing medium greater than 6 inches. Hybrid green roofs, on the other hand, contain elements of both. The choice between extensive or intensive depends on access, budget, maintenance, visibility, and load bearing capacity. However, most green roofs are commonly composed of a waterproof barrier, insulation, drainage/root barrier, substrate and vegetation as seen in the diagram below.



Green roofs serve several purposes for a building. Green roofs are amazing in their ability to clean and cool the air, beautify urban space and keep storm water out of sewers and waterways. This living architecture cleans the surrounding air, consuming carbon dioxide and emitting oxygen in the process. Green roofs reduce the volume of storm water runoff by absorbing and retaining water that would otherwise flood the storm sewer system resulting in sewage spills and overflows. This ability to absorb and retain water also helps filter heavy metals out of rainwater. Green roofs have also been known to provide insulation for the building, create a habitat for wildlife, and help lower urban air temperatures. It is apparent that the environmental benefits of a green roof are numerous.


While a green roof greatly improves the aesthetics of the immediate area, green roofs can also reward a building owner with long term financial benefits. Based on Gallup polls and current real estate statistics, green roofs add proven value to the building. They can also reduce energy costs and extended the life of the roof by more than 50%. A green roof is often the key component of an autonomous building.


However, as beneficial as the green roof is to both the environment and the building owner’s wallet, it is not without disadvantages. The main disadvantage of a green roof is the higher initial cost of the building structure, waterproofing systems and root barriers. The additional mass of the soil substrate and retained water can require additional structural support. Depending on what kind of green roof it is, the maintenance costs could be higher, but some types of green roofs have little or no ongoing costs. Some kinds of green roofs also place higher demands on the waterproofing system of the structure both because water is retained on the roof and due to the possibility of roots penetrating the waterproof membrane.

While it may seem undesirable to pay such a large upfront cost for a green roof, the long term benefits outweigh the initial cost. Over time a green roof both saves the building owner money and helps the environment. When it comes down to finding new ways to incorporate sustainable design into every day life consider the green roof.

4D Printing Concept

3D printing is poised to disrupt nearly every industry, with applications ranging from replicating organs to constructing houses; however, MIT is looking even further into the future introducing the concept of 4D printing. Skylar Tibbits, an architect, artist, computer scientist and director of MIT’s Self-Assembly Lab, recently gave a talk at the TED conference describing what is being called 4D printing. 4D printing involves 3D printing objects that change after they have been printed. 4D printing is basically a self assembly process whereby printed material forms itself into another shape after being subjected to an energy source such as heat, electricity, light, sound, or as he showcased in his demonstration, by submersion in water.


The whole idea started with materials that react in predictable ways to energy sources. This concept has led to the development of a material that changes shape in “programmable” ways when submersed in water. The result is a 3D printable material that when dunked into a tank of water, changes itself into a recognizable shape. A single strand for example, suddenly comes to life and forms the word “MIT” in two dimensions, while another pulls itself into an open ended three dimensional cube. This seemingly magical act comes about by programming different parts of the material to respond as desired. The self-folding structures are first printed out as long strands made of two core materials in combination – a synthetic polymer that can expand to more that twice its volume in water, and another polymer that is rigid in water. By carefully combining the two materials using specific blueprints, the expansion of the water-absorbing substance drives the joints to move, creating a predetermined geometrical transformation. “This is a whole new idea of printing, where you don’t just print static objects; you print things that turn into other things,” explained Skylar Tibbits.


On a large scale, the devices would be useful in building underwater structures or structures in space; anywhere where having people assemble it by hand would be prohibitively expensive, difficult or impossible. Research also shows the potential of programmable materials in the future of manufacturing. This opens up the concept of “environmental manufacturing,” in which companies can take advantage of ambient sources of surrounding energy. However, right now the transformations only happen in one direction. Tibbits said a future step in his research would be to see if they could be reversed. If so, the systems could become self-sustaining in environments with cyclical or seasonal change. For example, instead of using pumps, pipes could expand and contract, in a process resembling peristalsis, to push water. Overall, 4D printing is part of a whole new science that may very well revolutionize the way things are made. 4D printing would be a way to extend the printing window to after the printer has done its work to allow for self-assembly of three-dimensional objects that are limited only by our imaginations.

Changing Society Through ICTs

Technology always transforms society. In fact, information and communication technologies (ICTs) have drastically impacted the attitudes, expectations and behaviors of individuals, organizations and communities. One fine example of an ICT responsible for social transformation is the Apple iPad. In fact, the iPad has drastically changed the way students learn in places like Northwest Kansas Technical College.


Apple iPad

Northwest Kansas Technical College has found the Apple iPad useful in their hands-on learning approach. Northwest Kansas Tech is a two-year school located in the farming community of Goodland in northwest Kansas. This school develops highly skilled workers for the technical industries important for the nation’s infrastructure by training its students on the same technology they will use in the workplace. Recently, the introduction of the iPad and select apps has opened up many new learning opportunities for the students. Even though hands-on training in technical education typically means putting hands on machines rather than digital devices, there were numerous benefits for the iPad in Northwest Kansas Tech. In fact, the school’s overall licensure exam passing rates have improved since the iPad was introduced in the classroom. The pass rate in developmental classes has increased to well over 75%, and the pass rates for board exams among respiratory therapy students has risen to 87%. These rates are the highest the school has ever recorded. Also due to the implementation, Northwest Kansas Tech is now graduating 90% of its students and placing about 90% of them in jobs all thanks to the iPad education.


iPad used in diesel technology

Dr. Guy E. Mills, president of Northwest Kansas Technical College, says “The learning potential with iPad is just endless.” He is right; the iPad education has helped reinforce  hands-on learning. Greg Unger, diesel technology instructor at the Northwest Kansas Technical College says, “iPad and AirPlay allow us to demonstrate a procedure just once, record it, and play it on the big screen for all the students to view and discuss. Another instructor, has used iPad to highlight lessons in a collaborative textbook app that respiratory therapy students can access in the classroom or from remote labs and clinical sites. Cosmetology students also use an iPad app that lets them comprehensively track and manage clients. Overall, the iPad inspires creativity and hands-on learning with features not available in any other educational tool. Powerful apps from the App Store like iTunes U and iBooks let students engage with content in interactive ways, find information in an instant, and access an entire library wherever they go.


Video mirroring on iPad

iPads are being integrated into classrooms everywhere, not just at Northwest Kansas Technical school. Apple CEO Tim Cook said, “The adoption rate of iPad in education is something I’d never seen from any technology product in history.” However, it is not unsurprising that the iPad has become popular in the classroom. Apple textbooks provide engaging layouts, interactive images, 3D graphic and more. iPad apps are expanding the learning experience both inside and outside the classroom with educational apps from interactive lessons to study aids to productivity tools. iTunes U for the iPad makes it easy to customize courses for iPad and create an immersive learning experience for students. The iPad makes it easy to teach an entire class thanks to video mirroring, which easily shows web pages, photos, videos, and more on the big screen. Overall, iPads have drastically changed the traditional classroom education by providing a hands-on learning experience for students that instructs and entertains at the same time.

3D Printing for Prosthetics

One increasingly popular design application is 3D printing. Additive manufacturing or 3D printing is the process of making a three-dimensional solid object from a digital model. 3D printing is achieved using an additive process where successive layers of material are laid down in different shapes to create an overall object. This process makes 3D printing distinct from other machining techniques that rely on the removal of material by subtractive processes such as cutting or drilling. As a result, this technology has grown in popularity since the start of the 21st century and has led to a manufacturing revolution. 3D printing is now used in a wide range of fields such as industrial design, architecture, engineering and construction, medical industries, and many others. Bespoke Innovations is one example of a company that uses 3D printing to fulfill their mission.


A Bespoke Fairing

Bespoke Innovations is part of a movement towards individualized medicine.They create personalized Fairings to bring more humanity to people who have congenital or traumatic limb loss. They do this using 3D technology. Scott Summit the founder of Bespoke Innovations said, “Our efforts have been to connect additive manufacturing solutions to the people who stand to benefit from them the most. We look forward to new innovations coming from 3D Systems to further enable these developments.” The company is using advances in 3D printing to create prosthetic limb casings wrapped in embroidered leather, shimmering metal or whatever else someone might want. Summit stressed, “I wanted to create a leg that had a level of humanity. It’s unfortunate that people have had a product that’s such a major part of their lives that was so under-designed.” Bespoke Fairings are specialized coverings that surround an existing prosthetic leg, accurately recreating the body form through a process that uses three-dimensional scanning to capture the unique leg shape. These Fairings not only return the lost contour, they invite an expression of personality and individuality that has never before been possible.

deb_5527_FPO_0Fairings are made with the help of 3D Technology. First an image-based 3D scanning technology is used to capture images of both the “sound side” leg and the prosthetic leg. A 3D computer model results, and a mirrored “sound side” leg is then superimposed over the prosthetic leg. This way, the users are given their body symmetry back, at least to the greatest possible extent. In the case of Bilateral amputees a “stand-in” close to their original or preferred shape can be used. Then the customization of the Fairing is directed by the user, allowing them to completely control the personalization process. After the design is complete the Fairing can then be printed. 3D printing has allowed Bespoke Innovations to build something based on the unique shape of the user, modify it with their designs, and then turn it into something physical that can be worn. The resulting products are flexible, durable, and lightweight. The entire process can simply be summed up as scan, design, and print procedure (click on the links to view videos of each process). Overall, additive manufacturing or 3D printing has led to many innovative applications, such as the Bespoke Fairing.

The Solar Cooker: A Sustainable Design

Sustainable design, according to the website, is “the intention to reduce or completely eliminate negative environmental impacts through thoughtful designs.” Often referred to as environmental design, this concept can be applied to various different categories of design. Regardless of the application, however, a sustainable design will try to include certain environmentally-friendly outcomes such as lowering energy and water usage, reducing green house gas emissions, limiting resource consumption by using renewable resources or recycled materials, reducing or eliminating waste products by reusing or recycling them when available, and using non-toxic materials or those that will contribute to human health. A fine example of a sustainable design is the solar cooker.


Throughout the world, people have limited access to cooking fuels. In fact, in developing countries electricity and gas are out of the question when it comes to cooking. Only firewood and charcoal are within reach, and charcoal can sometimes be too expensive to purchase. That only leaves wood, and in developing countries trees are sometimes scarce. It takes a lot of wood to cook an entire meal for a family every day, and what few wood sources there are continue to dwindle. Families often have to walk miles to get firewood, and they often end up spending what little money they have on fuel, leaving less to buy food with. This shortage of cooking fuels results in illness and in a lot of cases death. In fact, 2 million people die every year from bacterial illnesses that could have been prevented by pasteurizing drinking water or food. Fires also release a lot of pollutants into the air. This smoke, filled with particulates, is bad for the environment and for the people who breathe them in. Inhaling smoke and soot often results in both lung and heart disease and an estimated 1.5 million people die from smoke inhalation annually. The use of wood for kitchen fires also creates a local deforestation problem, which destroys animal habitats and other ecosystem functions.

This is where the sustainable design of the solar cooker comes into play. There are two different types of solar cookers: the box cooker and the parabolic cooker.  The box cooker uses a shiny metal on the lid to direct sunlight into a dark pot or box, which absorbs the energy and turns it into heat. A glass covering over the box may be used to create a green house effect that allows sunlight to enter but keeps the heat from escaping. This design allows the solar cooker to reach temperatures high enough to pasteurize food and water, which is around 180 degrees F. In fact, the box cooker can reach up to 300 degrees F, and can cook food in a couple of hours.



The parabolic cooker can get even hotter, reaching temperatures up to 400 degrees F. This design is slightly more complicated. It uses curved reflective surfaces to focus a lot of light on a relatively small area. A pot of food sits in the arm of the cooker which suspends it in the middle of the reflective surfaces directly where all the light is concentrated.


The solar cooker uses sunlight, a renewable resource, to heat food or water to the necessary levels of pasteurization. This design greatly improves the health of individuals living in developing countries by killing bacteria in water or food. Also, the cooker eliminates the need for an open flame which means cleaner, safer air free from the particulates that cause lung and heart disease. The solar cooker also reduces firewood usage which protects animal habits and other ecosystem functions. In fact, using a solar cooker for an entire year can eliminate up to 1 ton of firewood. The solar cooker is a great example of a sustainable design that limits resource consumption by using a renewable resource, minimizes impact on the local ecosystem due to the decrease in firewood usage, and uses non-toxic materials that contribute to human health by eliminating the smoke particulates that cause lung and heart disease.

Prosthetics: A Design for Human Variability

Adaptive technology is any object or system that is specifically designed for the purpose of increasing or maintaining the capabilities of people with disabilities. Prosthetic limbs are a fine example of such an adaptive technology. While rare, limb amputations have become increasingly common worldwide. Often times, this kind of amputation leaves the victim with the inability to perform necessary daily tasks due to reduced functionality. In an effort to recover the lost functionality, a prosthetic limb can be fitted to the person. Until recently, the benefits from such prosthetics were often outweighed by the burden of their use or  attachment to the body. However, new prosthetic limbs have been developed which dramatically increased functionality and in some cases actually overtake the utility of biological limbs. These prosthetics have allowed users to live a productive and normal lifestyle free from limitations. In fact, specialized prosthetics have even been made to allow patients to participate in sports and recreation.

pistorius-feature-525The “Cheetah Leg” is optimized for sprinting. The prosthetic is built from carbon fiber and can boast a high strength at about half the weight of a biological leg. The decreased weight requires less torque to swing forward. This allows for faster rotation with less exertion. The shape of the leg acts as a spring, which stores energy on the heel strike and releases it at the toe-off. The length of the prosthetic also increases the stride of the runner in relation to their height. Overall, the performance of the limb is remarkable for a prosthetic and may even surpass that of a normal leg. In fact, the Cheetah Leg has become a topic of debate in the Olympics due to its possible advantage.

flipperFor marine situations, a promising prototype is the “Neptune” flipper. The Neptune is configurable for above and below the knee amputations. The purpose of the Neptune is for balancing the power of the leg kicks of uni-lateral amputations. Also, for bi-lateral amputations, two Neptune flippers could be used to add power to the swim stroke. Since the majority of amputations are due to health conditions, the flipper could allow users to exercise after their surgery. The initiation of a health routine could prevent further limb amputations, and improve the health of the patient.

KONICA MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERAProsthetics have also been developed for winter sports. Although a walking-limb can be modified and used, a ski-specific alignment should be performed for the duration of the activity. Additional foot dorsiflexion and external knee support should be added. For advanced users specialty feet, which eliminate the boot, are available. The plantar surface of the ski foot can be modeled after the boot sole and attached directly to the ski bindings eliminating the boot altogether. This eliminates excess weight, but, more importantly, enhances energy transfer to the sporting equipment for more efficient performance. Individuals with uni-lateral amputations will usually opt to use a single ski with modified bi-lateral forearm outriggers. Recently, a  prosthetic has been designed specifically for sports that require a loaded, flexed knee position, such as snowboarding. Snowboarders are in bi-lateral dynamic hip, knee and ankle flexion as they negotiate the hill. This new knee is adjustable and produces the weighted knee flexion needed to snowboard successfully. No additional adaptive gear is necessary when using the energy-storing knee.

Recent research efforts have propelled protheses design from century-old devices that were uncomfortable to wear to technically advanced devices. The functionality of the new devices is approaching that of the original limb and, in some instances, surpassing it. These prosthetics have given patients the opportunity to perform daily functions and live a normal lifestyle not limited by the functionality of their prosthetic. Prosthetic limbs are a model example of an adaptive technology.

“The customer is always right”

How do designers develop final products that satisfy the users’ wishes? Products that do exactly what the consumer wants without wasting time doing what it wants? Products like these just don’t magically happen. The answer is by identifying consumer needs. In fact, user-centered design requires focusing on the product’s potential users from the very beginning and checking-in with them each step of the way to make sure these users like and are comfortable with the final design. When it comes to designing a successful product, “the customer is always right.”

The process for identifying consumer needs begins with defining the market. This involves defining the target audience, identifying competitors and determining the core user needs and wishes that must be fulfilled for the product to succeed. Then raw data must be gathered through interview, focus groups, and observation. This gives the designer an understanding of the users’ goals and tasks, the strategies they use to perform the tasks, the tools they currently use, any problems they experience, and the changes they would like to see in their tasks and tools. Next, the raw data can be interpreted and categorized into need statements, which explicitly express the features consumers want in the product. After need statements have been established, designers can organize the users’ needs. Typical methods include asking users to list and prioritize tasks and observing users accomplishing their tasks. Also, asking users to complete their tasks using competitors’ products and assessing their overall satisfaction with each one helps organize consumer needs. After this step, it is necessary to establish the importance of each need expressed by the consumer. A common method involves asking the users to list the strengths and weakness of the products used in order of importance. Surveys are also useful in this procedure. After that, the designer can reflect on the results from the process and formulate designs based on the consumer input. However, the process does not end here. It is necessary to continually improve the product by periodically soliciting user feedback on the evolving design.

Ideo's design thinking approach

IDEO’s design thinking approach

One design firm that has perfected user-centered design is IDEO. IDEO takes a human-centered, design-based approach to helping organizations innovate and grow that they have termed design thinking. “Design thinking is a human-centered approach to innovation that draws from the designer’s toolkit to integrate the needs of people, the possibilities of technology, and the requirements for business success,” said Tim Brown the CEO and president of IDEO. This design thinking approach brings together what is desirable from a human point of view with what is technologically feasible and economically viable. IDEO creates innovative products, services, spaces, and experiences for companies such as Procter & Gamble, Pepsi-Cola, and Samsung and helps companies build cultures based on innovation. IDEO’s renowned process of innovation have given rise to the Apple mouse, the first laptop computer, the Polaroid I-Zone instant camera, the Palm V, the soft-handled Gripper toothbrush for Oral-B, and hundreds of others.

Tria Skin Rejuvenating Laser

Tria Skin Rejuvenating Laser

One fine example of IDEO’s design thinking is a product called the Tria Skin Rejuvenating Laser for Tria Beauty, which is a hand-held device that combines professional anti-aging laser technology with an elegant design for at-home skin care. Tria Beauty teamed up with IDEO to launch this new anti-aging device for use in daily beauty regimens. It was designed for women of all skin types who desired professional anti-aging benefits. During the research phase, the IDEO team sought to understand how potential customers thought about their skin and signs of aging, what they were doing about it, and what they thought about the existing options. This research led to the concept for the overall design: a device that expressed the professional power of the laser in a controlled, delightfully beautiful form, while also fitting effortlessly on bathroom counters and dresser tops and into nightly anti-aging skin care routines. Purchasers praised its ease of use, achieved by a sophisticated human-centered design interface. The laser is just one example of IDEO’s design thinking that incorporated consumer needs into the design. Overall, it can be seen that user-centered design is a method that identifies customer needs in order to create a final product that satisfies the users’ wishes.

“Green” Lighting

The lightbulb that has supplied our homes and offices with light since the 1880s is officially on its way out. Incandescent light bulbs while cheap, are very inefficient. In fact, most of the energy they produce is wasted as heat. As a result the financially and ecologically concerned are ditching incandescent bulbs for LEDs. The LED, or light-emitting diode, has been around for years. They light up cellphone screens, Christmas lights, and traffic signals. However, LEDs have never really taken off as far as household lighting goes. In the last few years, though, LED replacement bulbs that screw into lamps like incandescent bulbs have become more common. While LEDs are more expensive than incandescent bulbs, they offer better light quality and greater flexibility. In some ways, LED light bulbs can be considered a perfect technology.


An LED light bulb called the Geo-bulb

An LED is known as a “solid-state lighting” technology or SSL. Instead of emitting light from a vacuum like an incandescent bulb, an SSL emits light from a solid piece of matter. In an LED, light is produced when electrons move around in the semiconductor structure, which is made of positively and negatively charged components. The positive component is composed of holes that allow electrons to flow through them, and the negative layer is made of free electrons floating around in it. When an electron strikes the semiconductor, it activates a flow of electrons from the negative to the positive layer. The excited electrons emit light as they travel through the positively charged holes. This solid-state lighting technology has allowed LED light bulbs to become the superior choice in lighting. While you won’t find LED light bulbs in too many household fixtures today, there are a number of reasons to make the switch from incandescent.

First, there is the reduced energy use. The SSL method of producing light loses far less energy to heat than other lighting technologies do. As a result, it is about 85% more efficient than the vacuum/filament method used in incandescent bulbs. The vacuum/filament method causes incandescent bulbs to be extremely inefficient because most of the energy is lost as heat as electricity is pumped into filaments to make them glow. While a light fixture with a 60-watt incandescent light bulb consumes about 525 kWh of electricity in a year, an LED Geo-bulb in the same fixture only uses 65 kWh in annual energy use. That makes the LED an energy-efficient choice. Also, the carbon dioxide reduction for LED lights is in the hundreds of pounds for a single lamp. The reduction in carbon dioxide production and energy usage make it easy to see why LEDs have emerged as popular green lighting.

But energy efficiency is just part of the story. The other part is time efficiency. Solid-state lights such as LEDs are more stable light sources than incandescent bulbs. It is possible to go 20 years without having to change an LED light bulb. In fact, a Geo-bulb lasts 30,000 hours while a typical incandescent lasts about 750. LEDs are so long lived because they do not operate at high temperatures like incandescent bulbs. These high temperatures  degrade the filaments used to produce light in incandescents making the bulbs useless in a relatively short period of time. Even though LED lights are more expensive than the 1 or 2 dollar incandescent bulbs, the switch to LEDs is worthwhile in the end. Tariq Syed, a machinist at an electrical utility, who was interviewed by the New York Times, said, “The LED you buy, even though you pay even $25 or $30, it’ll last like nine or 10 years.” As a result, LEDs will end up saving money in the long run because the bulbs only need replaced once every decade or two.

Aside from the cost, another primary concern with LEDs is the color of the light emitted. All of the light produced by an LED is the same color and LEDs can be designed to produce light within the visible range of the spectrum. This precise conversion of light to one color is why LEDs are referred to as “digital light.” This digital precision creates a problem. Our eyes prefer full-spectrum light, such as the light produced from an incandescent bulb, a fireplace, or the sun. Today, LED bulbs use a mix of phosphors, which absorb light and re-emit it at different colors, to convert the single color of the LED to multiple colors that mimic the spectrum. As a result, more people find the light of the LED pleasing while a number of them prefer the color of light emitted by incandescent bulbs.


A kitchen lit by LED light bulbs

LED light bulbs can be considered a perfect technology. Compared to the incandescent light, the design and SSL technology behind the LED bulb makes it a superior choice in lighting. The next time its necessary to change a light bulb consider buying an LED bulb, especially if you are looking for a way to save a few bucks and the environment at the same time.