Beautiful. Smart. Human-centred lighting.

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The publics’ sense of safety and their wayfinding abilities are significantly impacted in dark outdoor spaces.

We understand this to stem not only from a lack of lighting infrastructure but also from the absence of activity occupying outdoor night spaces.

Born from the Eighteen04 Urban Iot Hack, Luna is a response to the uninviting quality of poorly lit public spaces. With the support of the City of Newcastle through the Startup Catapult Program, the Luna project was piloted in Civic Park across one week as part of the Hunter Innovation Festival.

In a deliberate contrast to Sydney's Vivid festival; we aimed to provide an intimate lighting experience which was centred on human interaction, particularly physical movement and gestures. The Luna Light Installation demonstrated smart city technology that was inclusive and immersive, responding to user input and open to play. The installation provided an example of how smart lighting might enhance the accessibility, attractiveness, utility and intimacy of public space.

Images: Edwina Richards Photography

Images: Edwina Richards Photography

Due to the timeline and location allocated, the initial product needed to be redesigned to suit the demands of the short-term project.

Instead of the initially proposed machine vision system that would have enforced awkward constraints on participants’ movements, a tolerant, physical control interface was designed. Rather than indoor lights intended for the University of Newcastle Callaghan campus, robust, outdoor stage lighting was programmed and installed on-site in the park. And instead of signage and instructions that might require manual intervention and exclude some participants, an intuitive, tactile user interface was custom designed.

How did Newcastle respond to Luna? 

“I work [across the road] everyday and have never been in this beautiful park at night. It’s lovely, I just wouldn’t have thought to come here otherwise.”
— Luna participant

The installation was successful in engaging a broad range of participants from local and regional communities. From young families, to lone park-goers heading home from their night shifts, everyone who crossed Luna felt a sense of inclusion and intrigue, which created a disarming quality to the interactions our SmartPlay taskforce staff observed. 

The Luna installation revealed strong support for aesthetic experiences within the CBD, and a widespread community desire to have a local variation of a lighting festival or similar initiatives that could provide a focus for families with children.

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I loved the taster that it was! I can only imagine what’s next in your brilliant minds! My kids had so much fun colouring the trees once we sat and were explained about it. I feel smarter for learning about RFID coding
— Comment made on project Facebook event page. 

Overall, the small scale of the Luna installation (at two tree locations in the park) provided an intimate, aesthetic, interactive experience which engaged a diversity of people from the local community. It provided a useful prompt for discussions among participants about key smart city initiatives. 

Where to next for Luna? 

Luna worked effectively as a small-scale interactive lighting installation pilot for the Hunter Innovation Festival 2019. It provided capability building for some parts of the broader Luna system. 

Since the installation, the team have received interest from D’Albora Marinas in Nelson Bay, event coordinators for Central Coast Council, and local business accelerator, Slingshot.

The Luna team remain committed to exploring further explorations of the possibilities of human-centred design within the broader Newcastle Smart City strategy.

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