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When Thomas Edison patented the then-new lighting technology, the incandescent light bulb, on January 27, 1880, he illuminated a new world, a modern world driven by innovative electronic technologies. The light bulb is without question one of the most impactful inventions of the last 150 years. However, the lightbulb did not remain as it was in 1880; its design was refined, and its applications expanded. One can chart this growth of electric light across the 20th century as light bulbs and lamps matured and became ubiquitous in cities, streets, and homes. Today, lights are everywhere. They are in every business, in every vehicle, and in nearly every pocket, thanks to cell phones.
This blog will look at some of the most intriguing, impactful, and illuminating innovations in new lighting technology to see just how far we’ve come from Edison’s first bulb to the modern marvels of today’s diverse lighting landscape.
LED (Light-emitting diode) may no longer be the new lighting technology it once was, but it remains perhaps the single most impactful development in lighting since Edison’s grand breakthrough. LED refined the lightbulb, making it brighter, more cost-effective, and more energy-efficient. Effectively emerging in the 1960s, LED has since become the default lighting technology for homes and commercial use. It has sharpened the image of modern HD televisions, lengthened the lifespan of vehicle headlights, and boosted the efficiency of light-based medical devices.
New Lighting Technology in Medical Fields
Lighting has been used in medical fields for generations. The advancements in LED technology quickly integrated into medical use, improving established medical lighting instruments and finding new applications for therapeutic treatments.
The AlgerLight with LED
The AlgerLight grew out of a kernel of an idea thought up by Dr. David Alger as he was completing his Orthodontic training in Houston, TX. Dr. Alger wanted to free up the hands and office space of dentists and orthodontists as they worked with patients. His solution was a ceiling-mounted dental light. Originally housed in a boxy metal case, the AlgerLight used a considered arrangement of incandescent bulbs to focus light from a distance into patients’ mouths. The device was a success, and over the past fifty years, it has become a reliable staple of dental office design. In that time, the AlgerLight, like Edison’s lightbulb, experienced impressive design growth. Innovation in LED lighting applications inspired Dr. Alger to overhaul the AlgerLight, replacing its incandescent bulbs with LEDs while also remodeling the casing and adding additional control measures, such as a wireless RF controller and a hands-free footcontrol. But the AlgerLight is far from the only LED medical application.
The Modern Innovation in Lighting for Therapy: Bright Light Therapy
Bright light therapy, also known as phototherapy, is a form of treatment that involves exposure to bright artificial light to regulate the body’s internal biological clock. This therapy is designed to help people with seasonal affective disorder (SAD), sleep disorders, and other mood disorders. Bright light therapy utilizes a light therapy box that mimics natural outdoor light to an exposure level of up to 10,000 lux. Exposure to these levels of light stimulates the brain’s pineal gland, which is responsible for regulating circadian rhythms and releasing hormones like melatonin, resulting in chemical changes in the brain that can lift a patient’s mood and ease other symptoms of SAD, such as fatigue and excessive sleeping.
Bright Light Therapy Beyond Seasonal Effectiveness Disorder
While much of the attention of bright light therapy has been paid to its treatment of SAD, new research has expanded bright light therapy applications and is finding impressive results. An October 2022 article published by the Harvard Medical School noted the additional uses of light therapy to treat major forms of depression beyond SAD, including perinatal depression. Says Dr. Richard S. Schwartz, associate professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School, “For both seasonal and nonseasonal depression, the effectiveness of light therapy is approximately the same as antidepressant medications, or popular forms of psychotherapy such as cognitive behavioral therapy.” The results of these expanded applications showed improved symptoms in between 40% and 60% of patients across various studies, suggesting that bright light therapy serves as an impactful treatment for various mood disorders with few adverse side effects.
New Lighting Technology in Entertainment and Advertising
Beyond medical applications, the fields of advertising and entertainment have pioneered some equally impressive modern innovations in lighting technology. Where these industries once utilized rudimentary yet effectively applied spotlights to draw the public’s attention to billboards, concerts, and film premieres, today they apply a much higher-tech approach with 3D billboards and event arenas packed with lighting technology that is as abundant as it is technologically innovative.
What is a 3D billboard?
A 3D billboard, otherwise known as a 3D anamorphic billboard or 3D dynamic billboard, is typically a large-form LED display that uses naked-eye 3D technology to render convincing three-dimensional images on a 2D screen for out-of-home (OOH) advertising. The 3D effect does not require traditional 3D glasses to be perceived, and it can be enjoyed from any angle, resulting in lively and captivating public promos.
How Are 3D Billboards Being Used?
3D billboards have only been around for a few years, but in that time, they have enthralled passers-by and have enjoyed online virality. They are currently on display in major metropolitan advertising meccas across the globe, including in New York’s Times Square, London’s Piccadilly Circus, and the ever-populated Shinjuku and Shibuya districts of Tokyo.
Tech companies like WhatsApp and Meta, major streamers Hulu, YouTube, and Amazon Prime, and video game companies promoting the season’s most anticipated titles have all capitalized on the eye-catching promotional abilities and high-tech associations of 3D billboards to entrance consumers and boost their brand images. These industries promote visual, communal products, making them ideal candidates for early adoption of 3D advertising. The new medium also serves as a way of expanding already established television and cinema IP into new digital realms.
The Impressive Modern Lighting Design of the Las Vegas Sphere
The internet is afire with footage of the Sphere, a next-gen live entertainment arena located in Paradise, Nevada, just east of the Las Vegas Strip. Designed by the global architectural and design firm Populous, the Sphere boasts an 18,600-seat auditorium with the newest LED light technology and audio capabilities. The venue’s interior includes a 16K resolution wraparound LED screen that pairs with speakers using beamforming and wave field synthesis technologies, creating 4D physical effects for eventgoers to enjoy. The building’s exterior is also wrapped in a state-of-the-art LED display, which changes regularly to exhibit the versatility of its impressive visual tech.
The Sphere Has Gone Viral
Since its opening on September 29, 2023, visitors to the venue and surrounding area have captured photos and–more impressively–video of the Sphere’s chameleonic facade and domed interior. The results have been as varied as they are impressive: a caricatured smiley face watches a golfer tee off; an oversized orb contains an ever-oscillating liquid; a photorealistic moon rises out of the earth, and a matrix of lights, lasers, and designs churn in synchronicity with the various big-name musical acts holding concert within the Sphere. Few advancements in visual technology look as futuristic as this venue, which teases the seemingly endless possibilities for new lighting technology.
Where Do We Go From Here?
The LED overhaul of the AlgerLight, the promising therapeutic applications of bright light boxes, the eye-catching dimensional displays of 3D billboards and the Sphere–these are all modern lighting technologies that have brought new innovation to their fields. Alger Inc. will continue to refine the AlgerLight further, just as bright light therapy is finding new and better means of medical treatment. 3D billboards are redefining how advertisement captures our attention, and the Sphere is opening our minds to new entertainment experiences. The world of lighting technology is exploding with possibilities, and the above are only a select few of the more impressive breakthroughs we’ve seen in modern years.
On the Alger blog, we will continue to explore innovation in lighting, inspired design, and medical breakthroughs–historical and emerging. Alger Inc. is a company that takes pride in its own innovation and seeks inspiration from those pushing the envelope for future possibilities. Keep your eye on the Alger Blog for more information about Alger Inc., the AlgerLight, and this amazing world around us.