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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Here’s a warning to your eyes: Watching television in a dark room might not be a great idea. You might think this sounds crazy, and it could be. But don’t tell that to Woodenshark, a trio of open-source designers and engineers, which has recently launched a crowd-funded product on Kickstater called Lightpack. It’s a simple device consisting of a mountable box and RGB LEDs that project color changing light against the wall behind your television or computer monitor.


The science behind the technology is quite simple. As light from your TV rapidly brightens and darkens, your pupils are constantly reacting by changing size. This process can take a matter of seconds (when the pupil gets smaller) to minutes (when the pupil gets larger). This constant flux and change can create muscular tension, says Woodenshark, potentially leading to vision problems. The solution is to raise the level of ambient room light. The addition of a Lightpack unit creates an environment that is brighter making drastic changes in display brightness less profound, thus reducing the amount of rapid change required by your pupils.

Beyond reducing eye strain, Woodenshark claims that Lightpack makes your brain perceive a display to be larger than it is. This is achieved through simple trickery. Human eyes have a relatively small focal area, with objects outside of this area blurred or out of focus. Lightpack’s LED lights shine light, matching the colors appearing around the boarder of an image, onto the wall. This extends the out-of-focus field beyond a display’s boundries. Woodenshark says this extension can make a 40 inch display appear to be as large as 50 inches.

Does any of this sound familiar? Actually, it should. Quite a few years ago Philips released a line of plasma displays with a proprietary technology called Ambilight. This technology was also premised and sold on the foundation of reducing eye strain. Like Lightpack, Ambilight bathed the wall behind a display with color changing light. A major benefit of Philips’ Ambilight technology was full integration into the television. It didn’t require external software, additional equipment, or lengthy user set-up.


Other products, similar to Ambilight, have found their way to the market. One example is the Adafruit Adalight project kit. However this kit is not a plug and play experience and that’s what essentially separates Lightpack from its non-Ambilight competition. The only set-up required is attachment of a box and lighting to the back of a display followed by tethering the unit to a computer (PC or Mac) via USB. Open-source software called Prismatik will need to be loaded onto the computer, and, after some set-up procedures, the unit is operational and ready to perform. Due to potential patent and licensing potholes, Lightpack cannot be connected to a TV through HDMI. An external computer is essential and needed.

Sound interesting? If so, join the crowd. As of today, the project has approximately 3,770 backers who have willingly pledged $294,000 which exceeds the necessary pledge goal by 33,000 dollars. The project will officially be funded on May 31, 2013. You can back the project or find out more information on Woodenshark’s Kickstarter Lightpack page.

Image Credit: Woodenshark/Lightpack
 

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Neat idea but it still seams a little rough around the edges. Not everyone (probably not many people really) have a computer hooked up to their TV. It would be interesting to see them branch out and take the software to an app that could be run on a gaming system or smart TV. With the LED's powered off the same USB connection it would be a nice, simple install and have a much broader potential customer base.
 

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Discussion Starter · #3 ·
I agree, it is still rough around the edges. And, yes, your average consumer isn't running a PC to an HDTV. That's what made Ambilight attractive: easy. If you go to the Lightpack funding website, there is a FAQ at the bottom of the page. Might have some answers as to why it isn't more easily hooked-up to a TV.... just an FYI in case you are interested.
 

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IKEA has had them available for a couple years already. I have these down in my theater room and they work great.
 

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Discussion Starter · #5 ·
This product is quite a bit different. It uses software that analyzes what the display is showing (color-wise) around the perimeter of the screen. The software then tells the unit what colors to display. For instances, if the right side of the screen has an orange image and the bottom is purple, the unit will display orange on the right side and purple on the bottom. So on and so forth... this constantly changing. You can see a demo of it here:

http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/woodenshark/lightpack-ambient-backlight-for-your-displays/widget/video.html
 

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Ok got it, thats quite sophisticated and would cost a fair bit to implement I am thinking.
 

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Discussion Starter · #7 · (Edited)
I think the sophistication aspect is it's downfall... it's easier to implement than other systems, but like snowmanick pointed out, your average user isn't running their cable or sat signal through a computer. If this plugged directly into an HDMI port... or was an HDMI pass-through device... WOW, that would be cool.

Still a neat concept though.

Many moons ago, when I had a plasma as my display in my HT, I had a soft-white LED rope light behind it (not visible, but the light given-off was visible)... I did it after reading some Ambilight research materials. It, IMO, made the picture appear to be sharper (than without it)... I'm sure the Lightpack product would be really fun to have installed.
 

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Nice concept but I am wondering if all those colors on the back of the tv will distract the user?
 

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Discussion Starter · #9 ·
Based on the principles of vision they cite, it technically shouldn't because that field of vision is out of focus anyway. But you make a good point. I wonder what happens to the effect if your eye is following fine detail along the edge of an image? Hmm...
 

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To me one solid color would help but multiple colors can get very distracting and especially if they keep moving every few minutes.. :)
 

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If an app based platform wouldn't work, then maybe use a Raspberry Pi (Rev A probably would be fine) as the brains. Base the video input off the composite connection, since resolution doesn't matter, and a lot of AVR's and TV's have a composite out. Use a simplified LED system, and power the whole thing off a USB connection. This would keep the price low, the unit small, avoid any possibility of signal degradation (as it would run off a parallel connection), and be simple to install.

Hmm...maybe I'll recommend that option to them.

Edit to add: OK, I received a response from the development team. It appears they already have a development mule running on a Pi, and other options they are exploring (such as Boxee, Google TV, and so on). This could be interesting. I kicked in a few bucks.
 

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I watched the demo and found the shifting / changing lights a little distracting. I have used ambient lighting in the past (old school fluorescent). I have been looking into putting some led lights (rope lighting) behind my HDTV but like the IKEA option Tonyvdb linked to, Thanks Tony :wave:

Has anyone heard of a Microsoft project called IllumiRoom ?

IllumiRoom is a proof-of-concept system from Microsoft Research. It augments the area surrounding a television screen with projected visualizations to enhance the traditional living room entertainment experience.
 

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I have been using backlight from Cinemaquest for about 7 years now and really hate watching a movie without it. This is a 6500K non changing light that is set to be no brighter than a solid white image on the TV. I am not sure how much I would like watching something where the lighting off the edges of the screen were constantly changing.
 

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Greetings

This is not a good idea when it comes to image fidelity. If your TV is actually calibrated correctly, these lights will undo a lot of that work. IT will prevent people from seeing the correct colors on the TV as long as the lights are on.

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Greetings

This is not a good idea when it comes to image fidelity. If your TV is actually calibrated correctly, these lights will undo a lot of that work. IT will prevent people from seeing the correct colors on the TV as long as the lights are on.

Regards
Michael, are you talking about this system with color changing LED's or any back lighting at all? It was my understanding that if the light was an accurate 6500K with a reasonable CRI that it should not affect the color on the TV.
 

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Greetings

It is the coloring that I am talking about. Our eyes are adaptive to the color of the environment. It changes the way we see color and we can't stop the brain from doing that. By adding that type of color, it pollutes the background and that effect changes how we see color on the TV screen. Prevents us from seeing what the calibrated image really looks like.

Now a d65 back light is preferred, but if it is used on a "red" wall, then the effect is still similar to these color lights. It has to be on a neutral wall ... for the best effect.

Regards
 
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