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Modular Art for the Masses
By Brad Frischkorn

Innovative minds continue to transform LED technology into both functional and fashionable forms.

Inventors at Canadian IoT startup Nanoleaf have accomplished much of the latter with the Aurora, a set of triangular, color-changing LED light panels that can make the living room look and feel like a cool hangout.

The Aurora is a smart lighting kit allowing for any patterned arrangement on your wall simply by connecting their terminal stubs. The entire group is then linked with the Nanoleaf Hub, through which colors can be fixed and shifted by smartphone app. They can also be set to respond to spoken commands.

The panels work with Apple HomeKit, a standard which is built into iPhones and iPads. More recently, they have been tweaked to work with Amazon's Alexa system as well.

The Aurora is truly impressive on almost any wall as the panels can be programmed to shift effortlessly, reflecting a plethora of moods or animated scenes.

Critics have pointed out that they aren’t as practical as traditional smart bulbs, won‘t fit in with every aesthetic, and lack a music sync. Later iterations may address some of these drawbacks, however.

A set of 10 Aurora panels retails through the company’s website for about $200.

“The Aurora doesn't come cheap. But it isn't outrageously expensive, either, especially when you consider how eye-popping these panels are -- or that the cost is roughly as much as you'd pay for a three-bulb Philips Hue starter kit,” says a cnet.com reviewer. “It's tough to deny that they make a pretty compelling case for novelty smart lighting.”

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Nanoleaf Aurora wall display

“We use a ‘participatory design approach’ and beta test with end users to help us focus on what people want and need rather than ask ‘how can we adapt this to an existing system?’" -- Christian Yan

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