Bye bye winter blues

Ario crowdfunds a mood-enhancing lamp that mimics natural lighting

Winter can wreak havoc on a person’s internal clock. Energy tends to fade along with the sunlight, and a subset of the population experiences a form of depression that takes hold when sunny days all but vanish around November. A startup called Ario wants to help those people with a smart lamp designed to emulate optimal sunlight and, potentially, keep the winter blues at bay.

Ario has turned to Kickstarter to help it realize that goal. The company wants to raise $50,000 through the campaign, and it plans to get the first lamps to backers by the end of 2016, after it works out any kinks in the manufacturing process. It has also raised an undisclosed amount of outside funding — the lamp’s existence doesn’t hinge on the success  of the Kickstarter campaign.

The lamp itself boasts an Internet connection; LEDs that change their hue in accordance to the ideal sunlight patterns, as determined by the company; and on-device controls that mean anyone can use the product without having to fumble around with a smartphone application or dedicated remote control. All of this is supposed to make it the ideal gateway to the future of lighting.

Ario in the Morning

Ario chief executive Brian Hoskins says the lamp is supposed to provide a glimpse into the future of lighting that doesn’t hinge on energy savings (which is what you get from non-incandescent light bulbs) or entertainment (which is how he characterizes the Philips Hue line of products). Instead, Ario will focus on the health of people who use the lamp as their primary light source.

This means Ario has to be different from other smart lighting solutions. Those differences include directional lighting, which turns on the top or bottom of the device depending on the time of day, thus mimicking the sun’s position in the sky; automated systems which don’t require user input to function, making it easier for people to use the device without thinking; and limited coloring.

“With smart bulbs, you’re fundamentally changing how people interact with lighting, and it’s something that people will be excited about in the first two weeks and then stop using it because it can be hard or confusing,” he says. “Ario is a totally different experience, and we’ve received amazing feedback from testers saying the lamp makes it feel more like you’re living outside.”

There’s no doubt that lighting affects our health, and the idea that receiving the same exact light from a fixed point in the ceiling or in a lamp might be bad isn’t all that surprising. The question is whether or not people should buy Ario instead of other smart lighting systems trying to fill the same roles. (One of the most notable is Sunn, which is made to mimic its namesake solar orb.)

Hoskins thinks Ario’s design could make people choose it over other options. It’s supposed to fade in the background, like the light bulbs people already own, but it’s also supposed to be much healthier than those other lights. Then there are all the features I listed above. The Kickstarter campaign is a way for the company to prove enough people want this product to come to market.

Even if people don’t purchase the Ario, though, it’s worth thinking about how light affects our bodies and minds. Hell, we’ve known for decades that light is important, yet we’ve made few changes because of that knowledge. Whether it’s through Ario or through other products, it seems indoor lighting is overdue for an upgrade. It has to large an effect on us to ignore that.