Giant light-up ceiling tricks office drones with simulated clouds

I have worked at a cube farm. You know, those confined workspaces with a tiny chair stuck miles away from any semblance of a window. Is it day or night — who knows? German engineers have rightfully decided that's uncivilized, and thus created a "dynamic luminous ceiling" that gives one the feeling of more spaciousness.

The luminous ceiling simulates a sky with clouds passing overhead and causes light levels inside the office to fluctuate with their movement. The ceiling is created with tiny LED-lit tiles 50 centimeters wide and across. Through a mix of red, blue, green and white LEDs, they can create of 16 million hues. That's a lot of big sky.

The idea behind the ceiling is to fool the brain into thinking it's outside and in a more pleasant environment. Dr. Matthias Bues from the Fraunhofer Instititute for Industrial Engineering in Stutgartt, Germany explains the psychological effect thusly: "the LEDs allow for us to simulate these dynamic changes in lighting in a way that is not directly obvious to the naked eye. Otherwise the lighting might distract people from their work. But it does need to fluctuate enough to promote concentration and heighten alertness."

Very limited testing has been done, but those few who have worked under the luminous ceiling did report a preference. When varying from not fluctuating at all to a scenario where the ceiling made rapid light fluctuations, testers preferred the latter.

I can see how any change in the work environment would stimulate those who work in the kind of dark, lifeless spaces straight out of Orwell's 1984. I'm even happy with a potted plant.

But, I'll put a challenge out to the research team — can you experiment with the LED brightness to help all of us who suffer from seasonal affective disorder? I like a dappled cloudy day as much as the next gal, but if you want to increase my productivity give me some sun.

Fraunhofer Institute for Industrial Engineering IAO, via io9

For the latest tech stories, follow DVICE on Twitter
at @dvice or find us on Facebook