Share this Story

Video: Dynamic Ambient Lighting for Smartphones is One Colorful Idea

Say, “Hi” to “dynamic ambient lighting” for mobile phones. Through the installation of prototype hardware made up of 40 LEDs onto a Desire smartphone, along with a specially designed application like the one used in the video below, our smartphones have the potential to become a whole lot more colorful and interactive. The idea is presented by a Masters student whose thesis was built around the thought that smartphones in their current state, are limited in how they can present themselves. By using LED lights as part of the hardware, you can make the smartphone experience much more creative and informative at the same time. 

Taking the map app that is demonstrated as an example, the phone can display different colored lights in the direction of what it is you’re looking for. If you are looking for public transportation, the LEDs could light up pink in the direction you need to scroll on the map to find a bus stop. They could show red in the direction of bad traffic or display blue in the direction of a lake or river.

That’s not all, though. Think about some other use cases. I could definitely see game developers and music application developers taking advantage of this technology which would allow their apps to become more interactive and aesthetically kick-ass. Off the top of my mind, if I was playing Dead Trigger and every time I got a headshot, the LED’s could give a big red glowing flash. Oh yea, that would be sick.

This is a “prototype” and far from ever becoming a consumer product, but we still thought it was interesting enough to share.

What do you think about this? Want your phone lighting up like a Christmas tree for all of your notifications and incoming calls?


Via:  Qian Qin

  • Harris Brown

    Well I guess they will get the battery fixed. They are not that ignorant.

  • Daniel Maginnis

    haha, i remember this… my first cell phone was a nokia 3390. i outfitted it with flashing LEDs under the keypad, battery, antenna and around the case of the phone. i thought i was so cool when my phone would light up a movie theater house whenever i got a txt message.

  • spoonbender

    Could definitely be a useful accessory for someone with a hearing impairment. For navigation it could indicate the proximity and direction of the next turn like the voice feature does, so you dont have to be staring at your phone’s screen while driving. Could also provide more unique and wider variety of notifications, akin to custom ringtones, while also being better able to alert the user than the vibrate function and a tiny LED can.

  • kidheated

    I like this idea, but do agree, combined w/ LTE the battery will die in 2 hours… even though LED’s are very energy efficient. I always thought there should be some kind of notification light on the backside of a phone to compliment the default light. The navigation idea is really cool, but again it takes away from the, “I’m not a tourist looking at a map, please don’t jump me while I figure out where I’m going,” factor while looking at a maps app. Having a super bright light point in the direction you would be going is just asking for it. The lights would have to be fully customizable as well, down to the smallest detail.

  • My old Nokia 3220 did this! Which I still have BTW:

  • ambient lights? are you joking? that has to be one of the most pointless/stupid ideas ever.

  • All kiiiiinds of FAIL. Anyone remember Phillips ambilight TVs? Yeah, my point exactly. This is just annoying and pointless. Instead of having exterior lights indicating bus stops and such.. they could just implement blue/purple blobs on the actual display and achieve the exact same results without the annoying distracting battery draining lights.

    • gimlet72

      I was going to mention the Phillips TV a well. One of the later TV looked great the ambient lighting would change color depending on the colors on the screen. This technology never took off. I did install aftermarket ambient lighting on a TV in my office. It looks great and take strain off the eyes but I don’t see this as something that would me implamented on a large scale. Maybe as an adapter or a case with a battery back that could communicate via blue tooth

  • Guest

    So it’s a phone function where you need to have it on a table to really make use of it? That sounds like a good idea. And the screen could just have arrows pointing to locations in google maps – it’s kinda been done by video games…

    This is just a way to make people texting in theaters more annoying.

  • Guest__Comment

    How do you tell that designers have totally run out of USEFUL ideas to add to our devices? They resort to “blindingly bright, colorful rotating light marquees”.

    I’d be happy with something as simple as this, instead:
    One very small RED led = email waiting.
    One very small YELLOW led = voice mail waiting.
    One very small GREEN led = alarm waiting.
    (All of the above is user-settable, of course.)

    (No, they can’t all just be 1 multi-color led that can only display 1 choice.)

  • BroRob

    I would like to see this implemented in to a hard case/dock first and if it proves to be useful start adding to new phones.

  • bcap12

    This isn’t new, they had this for the old Nokia Phones back in the day. Obviously it was as sophisticated as this but still not worth it.

  • Stewie

    I’m so sorry, but this is just Stupid, plain and simple. Nothing more than flash that will one, eat your battery, and two, be something that you’ll turn off once the novelty fades, which will be quickly …

  • Nokia 3220 was the coolest phone I owned. Way back in 2004. It had a similar concept, but he lights around the phone were limited to notifications (
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qMDypWJmH_I )

    This concept actually takes it to the next level by integrating it with applications. Although, I can think of very few real life scenarios where this would actually “enhance” the functionality of an application and make life easier. I might just be wrong though 🙂

  • Jason Brown

    i liked the option of answering/declining an incoming call by touching the LED light. pretty cool idea.

    • Suzuki Samurai

      Except what happens if you have the phone in your hand when you get a call???

      • rezzlerr76

        Just answer the phone. Just like you do now!

        • Jason Brown

          exactly as what rezzlerr76 said! LOL! this is just a prototype. im sure they can come up with a way for the phone to tell it’s in your hand and not flash the incoming call LED lights.

  • Gusbako

    My Motorola v80used to be like this look it up

  • TheOiulkj

    What is the point of this? My screen can already display more colors than any cheap LED ever will. Just develop some app that displays a big colorful boarder if you’re into that. I for one am already content with the amount of rainbows surrounding my phone.

    • Champion1229

      The idea of doing actions without touching the screen is the big thing here. Just like the example given what if your hands were greasy and you didnt want to touch the screen, its better to touch say the table the phone is on then the screen.

  • I kind of like the light on the map, but Google should just incorporate that to display at the edges of the map. Might need to pay the guy for the idea and Google can just give me a Nexus 7 for my extension of the idea.

  • Knlegend1

    Patent it and don’t let apple near it

  • ddevito

    Light Flow Two Point O

  • jd

    Finally. I’ve had an idea like this forever. Phones are so bland now.uk remember my Nextel I 9 5 c l Looked like it had air intakes from a jet or something wicarbon fiber steak down the middlelue carbon

  • Tyler

    This looks very fragile! Integrate it around the case for a sturdy look! I don’t know if the intensity can be adjusted but just imagine laying in bed when your room is lit up by 40 led lights. It sounds like it would kill battery too due to the fact that it uses bluetooth. All in all it sounds cool but it would get old after about a month.

  • Duh…

    This idea just screams, “Please, steal my phone!”

  • I think this would be SO much fun. Especially if its per app controlled. Then apps like LIghtFlow can add cool idle “animations” for ultra customization. Make this into a case so it can be made for any phone and have it plug into your usb port but it has its own usb port on the case so when you charge your phone you charge a battery in the case and your phone battery at the same time. Then add a switch to turn it on and off and id buy this in a second.

  • Matthew Fura

    Phillips tried this with flat panel TV’s years ago and failed miserably. Cell phones would be no different.

  • CapnShiner

    If any company decided to actually implement this, I see it being a fun gimmick for a few days and then becoming extremely annoying and not being used anymore. Even the notification LED on my phone walks a thin line between useful and annoying.

  • Coaster36

    Awesome! Sign me up. I would buy the first peone with this technology. Screw notification lights. If my whole phone lights up thats awesome. This gets my vote. I like this better then a better screen or better camera. I hope someone buys this. I cant wait.

  • Teabling

    If it was in a case sporting its own power supply, it would be killer.

    • In the prototype it think it does since he says it communicates with the phone via Bluetooth. I don’t see why not on the full version either. its only need a small bat for leds being used sometimes. not like its running a processor or hd screen. So even if it has one half the size of the phones battery it’ll probably last all day with it on.

    • That could work. The case would plug into your phone’s port and you plug in the charger to the case port. This way you would charge both over night.

  • I loved the ambient lighting on the Sidekick back in the day. Every time I’d get a text message or call, that phone would light up like a Christmas tree! 😀 (Memories)

  • The functionality he shows could just be built into the apps themselves. Maps in video games often show the direction of enemies or waypoints that are beyond the limits of the map with various indicators around the edge. Weaksauce.

  • brando56894

    I love it how he’s obviously Asian, but speaking English and the phone is in German.

    • droidman101

      Probably a lawyer as well getting another degree.

  • KL Tah

    in cases like this, a short paragraph at the end detailing the bio of inventor would’ve been helpful. give credit where credit’s due.

  • jjrudey

    Well at least everyone within a 1 radius will know you have a notification.

  • Dan Treacy

    This kinda reminds me of the 3rd party batteries that were available for the Nokia 5110 like 12 years ago. Whenever someone called, this particular battery I had on the back of my phone would light up rapidly in various colorful patterns. I remember whenever people would see it they would literally freak out. That phone was also cool b/c you could change out the faceplate too. Early mobile phone customization…that’s a strong reason why I love Android so much.

  • The Samsung Armani phone has ambient lighting all around the phone. I think it was like ’08 when it came out.
    See here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wbydJgyC-P0

    • chudilo

      Heh. Apple will patent it on a smartphone and then sue Samsung for it anyway.

  • WalCs

    I can see this integrating into SGS3 due to their full back cover can be easily changed out

  • Dan Sullivan

    I seem to recall a flip phone that had LEDs around the edge, 10 years ago I’m not terribly impressed with this

    • Motorola V80.

    • Ray

      i had a samsung phone 10 years ago that had a light just like this all the way around the phone

    • desiman26

      Yeah, I remember having this on my first cell phone. A Siemens CF62T

  • No, battery life killer

  • David Gray

    Apple already owns the patent for that….

    • aalf

      Lololololololololololol hahahah omg I seriously lol’d

      • michael arazan

        Apple just Patented today a patent for/called “5th dimension” it basically copies the 3d computer from minority report tom cruise used. The design is very basic in the patent, even use stick figures showing how with a glove like from the old nintendo and a projection unit onto a clear glass or board..

    • ddfuji

      to funny.

    • You win the game sir. Sincerely made me laugh.

    • Champion1229

      more like they would buy it!


    How long before Apple sues this guy.

  • Alemonator

    If my phone will come with a bigger battery!

  • Random Guy

    We need this like we need another hole in our head. One more reason to crash the car while driving. Just another way to suck the juice out of our batteries. First they need to improve the clarity of the phone reception then the dead zones then the price of phones and of course the service cost to use them. Maybe when we fix reality we can focus on shinny lights like the ones they sell in China town with Keroppi cases.

  • TheFirstUniverseKing

    I thought this ambient lighting idea would’ve been demonstrated with notifications rather than the Maps app, but I guess that’s a creative idea too. I was thinking more of the lines of having a green led light up for Twitter notifications, blue for Facebook notifications, red and white for Google+ notifications, or solid red as a battery low indicator.

    • Watch the WHOLE video.

    • TheRealMrChips

      You can have that today with a Gnex and Light flow… Just say in’…

  • Guest

    Let’s kill my battery faster! The 4G radio isn’t doing the job fast enough.

    • patapongirl

      This is a prototype meaning it’s presenting AN IDEA. By the time it’s implemented on a phone for daily uses, don’t you think battery technology has already advanced to the point to sustaining it?

      It’s like people in the past saying cars can’t travel more than 10 mph because it can’t carry so much coal.

      • don’t you think battery technology has already advanced to the point to sustaining it?”
        Not if manufacturers keep putting batteries less then 2000 MAH in their phones.

      • Jarred Sutherland

        Yeah except we have been dealing with battery issues for quite some time now, all the while companies like HTC, Motorola, Samsung and others keep pushing new features (dual core this quad core that, bigger screens) without adding anything to the battery.

        So no, I don’t have faith that they will resolve it when they make boat loads on the next new gadget with its hex core CPU and flashy back covering.

        More battery, now please, don’t care about all this other shiny stuff that doesn’t allow me to use the device any better.

    • fixxmyhead

      or for people that dont care about battery life bring it.

  • Bionic

    No thanks

  • MrToTo83

    Say goodbye to your battery life!