Fortifying long-distance connections through ambient light

The Lightbound project is facilitating meaningful human connection with technology.

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Living far away from loved ones isn’t easy. Long-distance relationships fail often and friendships can sometimes feel impossible to maintain without direct contact. A sense of connection with our close friends and family is fundamental to the human pursuit of happiness. While technological advancements like video calling have certainly made these connections easier to sustain, Emilia Tapprest, a student from Aalto University in Finland, designed a prototype communication system called Lightbound that enables individuals to feel more present in one another’s lives despite the obstacles presented by physical distance. 

Consisting of a pair of wifi-connected objects, the system is enabled to wirelessly send and receive ambient light as a subtle, non-verbal language of mutual awareness. It communicates a sense of presence on a couple of levels – the other person’s heartbeat is communicated in real-time via a continuous pulsating light, and each pulse initiates a slight change in the ambient lighting.


The project allows partners in long-distance romances, or parents living far away from their children to better express their longing and to let their loved one know that they’re thinking of them through the simple gesture of touch. Currently on display at the annual Dubai Design Week’s Global Grad Show, Tapprest sees the project as an attempt at harnessing the more poetic dimensions of technology to facilitate individual human connections. 

“Design and technology affect our behaviour in ways we barely notice. It can alienate as well as reconnect, satisfy our instant desires or, in turn, help us develop and flourish,” Tapprest explains. “Most of my projects materialize in social interventions or interactive objects that can be experienced in real-life context. At the moment I am intrigued by possibilities of multimodal interaction for increasing bodily awareness and sensitising ourselves to our surrounding reality.”

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