My Perfect Light

I’ve been making quite a few trips through the Baltimore Harbor Tunnel and I noticed that the color of the lighting changes when I’m in the tunnel. There’s a yellow tint as you enter, and more white LEDs when you’re inside and when you exit.

I decided to do some research and discovered there are basic principles of “tunnel illumination”. Besides the pompous title, it’s practical and fascinating. Created to let a driver’s eye adapt to the difference in lighting from the outside to the inside of the tunnel the principles prevent the “black hole effect” that is dangerous to drivers. The tunnel is split into three zones:

Threshold zone at the beginning tunnel is calibrated based on the general lighting right outside the tunnel
then one or more transition zones are put in
lastly an interior zone is set to the minimal lighting level chosen for the tunnel

These transitions and luminance levels made me think of the alarm clocks that are giant light orbs that slowly get brighter as it gets closer to the time you need to wake up. Applying the tunnel illumination principles to these products and environmental design seem like the perfect next step for lighting design.

Philips HF3480 Wake-up Light

The alarm clocks slowly light up to replicate a sunrise, but with these new principles you could set the final threshold of your room lighting, but also the transition zones. The main reason I don’t have the light alarm clock is I fear that I won’t wake up to the soft light. With these principles I could create transition zones that alternated smooth zones with bright bursts to send a more aggressive message to my body to wake up without resorting to any audio.

There could even be a de-illumination mode for going to sleep as well. When you’re winding down for bed your environment could naturally start to dim over the hour. Slow transitions to dark, soft and warm lights could induce the ideal environment for a great night’s sleep.

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