The lightbulb has evolved dramatically since Thomas Edison first demonstrated his newfangled incandescent in 1879. The ability to simply cast a little light with the flip of switch may have been an adequate selling point in the pre-incandescent “dark” ages, but nowadays we want more than a basic guiding light.
With the advent of LEDs, design enthusiasts are making lighting into something of an art form that’s actually accessible to homeowners. And connectivity lets many of them perform all kinds of helpful tricks, like alerting you of incoming calls, which is useful for those of us who suffer from phantom vibration syndrome (it’s a thing). From levitating lamps, to devices with built-in digital assistants capable of ordering takeout on our behalf, here are 12 of our favorite lamps on the market.
The Heng Balance is one of the more original lamps we’ve seen in recent years. “Heng” means “balance” in Chinese, and the overall design was inspired by traditional round fans and window frames. A series of lights run along the inside rim, and unlike most lamps, there’s actually no switch on the Heng Balance. Instead, the unit uses two balls with embedded magnets, which attract one another and activate the lamp once close enough.
Like the Heng, the Lightest lamp also uses magnets. However, the Lightest’s magnetic base and lamp repel one another, enabling the lamp stand to levitate just above the base. You can even 3D print your own lampshades for even further customization.
Lumio is a versatile lamp that’s capable of dishing out a little light at home and on the go. The lamp is designed to resemble a hardcover book, and as such, the interior “pages” fan out a full 360 degrees. Magnets along the exterior also allow you to mount Lumio onto virtually any magnetic surface. Needless to say, if visionary and Lumio-owner, DJ Khaled, is any bellwether of technological integration, the units should be selling like hotcakes in no time. #MajorKey
GE has designed the C to work in tandem with an array of compatible smart home appliances. The LED table lamp uses Amazon’s digital assistant, Alexa, allowing you to order takeout, preheat the oven, and even listen to the latest news. As the smart home market continues to grow in the coming years, we can only expect to see more products like C in the future.
The Pretty Smart Lamp
The Pretty Smart Lamp lives up to its name. The web-like device can help you track down your phone and connect to other smart home devices. Its light sensor automatically adjusts brightness based on your surroundings, and features a variety of colors and lighting sequences, for when you’re going through your blue period. It comes in a variety of styles, too, so if you don’t want something that looks like a glowing crystal sitting on your bedside table — who are you?! — there are other options.
Flyte Levitating Lightbulb
More lightbulb than lamp, the Flyte is a wirelessly-powered light that floats in the air as if by magic. In reality, however, this is due to magnetic levitation. The contactless light draws power from the wooden block that sits directly beneath the device. Inside the snazzy wooden base, electromagnets attract the bulb’s base, while slightly stronger magnets repel, making the bulb hover in air. Point being: David Blaine has nothing on the Flyte.
If you want your whole place to take on a glow, get your hands on these 3D-printed Lace Lamps from French designers Linlin and Pierre-Yves Jaques. A 3D-printed, plastic insert around the bulb casts delicate and lovely shadows on the walls whenever you snap on the light. Le sigh. They are très expensive at about $500.
Yeah, the Notti does cool stuff, like change color based on your phone notifications, sync with your alarm, and keep beat to your tunes. But the best part? You can probably fool your friends into thinking that it, with its mountain-peak-like design, is a piece of the Aggro Crag from Nickelodeon’s Guts.
Flat is where it’s at, per the Aerelight from OTI Lumionics. It’s an OLED desk lamp, so it’s made of the same stuff as those TVs we’ve been raving about. Unlike LEDs, OLEDs can roll out flat like a newspaper, and the Aerelight takes full advantage of said design. It’s ultra-slim and should last between 15 and 20 years.
While it may not look as snazzy as some of the other lights on our list, the GravityLight is doing something far more important: It’s a gravity-powered lighting system that could provide light to some of the more than 1.1 billion people who live without electricity. Safer and more efficient than something like kerosene, the power generated by a sort of weight-and-pulley system lights up an LED bulb. If you don’t want one for yourself, consider contributing to the organization’s ongoing humanitarian efforts in Kenya.
Philips Hue Go
Shaped like a bowl and just as portable, the Philips Hue Go can tilt wherever you need a little extra light. Cycle through its millions of colors, get notifications, and recharge it every three hours. The lamp’s real draw, however, is that you can bring it outside to brighten up your barbecue. Plus, since it’s Philips, it syncs up with other smart home devices.
Just call it a chameleon. Set the portable ColorUp lamp on your little red wagon, purple people eater, or green dollar bills; squeeze; and the bulb changes color to match whatever its camera picks up. Its balloon shape also makes it kind of fun. Sadly, PEGA Design & Engineering promised we’d see this lamp by the end of 2014, and we’re still waiting.
This article was originally written on June 7, 2015, and updated by Dallon Adams in March to include the Heng Balance, Lightest, Lumio, and the C.
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