Graduate Theis Project
Unity 3D, ARKit, Photon Engine, Smart Lighting
2018 | NYU ITP

Let Me Give Light is a series of augmented reality projects that repurposes ancient lighting technology in a modern context.


Designed concept and interaction
Programmed three kinds of iPad and iPhone AR application


Lighting technology has been developed over the past two centuries, bringing not only countless paradigm shifts in its hardware but also how we think about light and lighting. While we take modernized light granted which illuminates the space around us, fire occupied a pivotal role in the religious beliefs of in ancient days and now candlelight is still widely used from meditation to social movements like tribute ceremonies or protests.

For example, two years ago, there was a big protest called the Candlelight Movement in South Korea. Millions of citizens were holding up a candlelight and channeled their anger into a powerful political message against the corruption of the government. The protest caused a major change in South Korea and two years after that, the next government presented the ceremony with a thousand of drones and LEDs for the Pyeongchang Winter Olympic Games. The lights represented an aspiration of peace and the South Korean citizens treated it as a celebration for overcoming the hard times during the protests.

These two moments used both the most ancient and the newest lighting technologies to express our mood and emotions.

So I started to ask:
How can emerging technology mimic the restorative properties of ancient light? How can it shift the current lighting paradigm for more meaningful ways?

Inspired by fire and candlelight that has invisible power to deliver emotional and spiritual messages in rituals and social movements, I conducted three different experiments for reinventing the latest lighting as a new mean of interaction between human and physical environment. And I entitled them as Let Me Give Light, Let Us Give Light, and Let Us Give Candlelight, inspired by the phrase from Shakespeare’s play “The Merchant of Venice”. While the context of this saying is a little different, it gave me a strong aspiration which means we can change the way of designing light, from the illumination to the people and our interpersonal connectivity.

Interaction Design

I chose augmented reality as the main technology for giving light. This allows users to interact with physical environments by overlaying the virtual elements of their mobile devices. Using this technology, I could create augmented lighting that is unconstrained from the space limitation, and connect us and our world more seamlessly. The image shows how three different apps were designed with its own interaction.

# Let Me Give Light

Let Me Give Light is an attempt to give light to our everyday light bulbs with meaningful interaction. This is inspired by a flaming torch, which delivers heating energy intuitively and powerfully. Users can directly deliver the lighting energy to the smart lighting bulb by blowing into their smartphone, instead of using voice assistant or buttons.
When the ARKit technology detects the collision between the wall and the lighting object which is generated by Unity, the real-time 3d graphics engine, the application sends a signal to the HUE smart lighting network and finally the light bulb ends up turning on. Users can also simply turn off the lighting with same interaction.

Research & Development

My main focus of research was how to built seamless communication between mobile and modern lighting technology using AR. After researching Phillips HUE's hardware setting and its API, I could control the light parameters in Unity script. Then I continued researching on ARKit's plain and vertical detection as well as its physical system of virtual lighting. Finally, I added sound input and graphic effect into the environment.

# Let Us Give Light

Let Us Give Light invites users to an interactive light playground which proposes the enlightenment and a deeper emotional connection.
Once the user project the graphic indicator to the surface, the ARKit recognizes its plain and make a connection with that. Then the user can generate the virtual lights by touching anywhere on the screen and the melodic sounds are generated simultaneously. The inner physical lightings are reacting with every single input and eventually, they are presenting beautiful interactive lights performance.

Research & Development

For this, I designed a combination of the lighting and the opaque surface that has the maximum surface detection quality for AR, built in a plant pot . A color-changing graphic indicator was added in order to guide users to show their status and I finally researched the post processing effect for the visual quality and physics simulation for the dynamic motions. Using Photon Engine with Unity 3D, I could a networked space where multiple users are able to enjoy the delightful experience.

# Let Us Give Candlelight

The last experiment enables users to leave their wishes through an augmented candlelight.

Users can easily record their wishes by touching the red buttons and the digital candlelight is located to the point where their phone is looking at. This could be a permanent public sculpture that can potentially alter the old-fashioned collective sculpture like love locks in Paris, which is already removed because of its overweight. Users can also listen to the messages by simply touching the candlelights that are already generated. With this technology, now we can store unlimited symbolic collections beyond the time and space.

Special Thanks to
Tom Igoe, Younho Lee, Jeff Park