A levitating light that doubles as a work of art

Flyte’s floating bulb is both a sublime piece of craftmanship and a fine feat of engineering

Video: Flyte

“Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic,” the futurist and writer Arthur C Clarke famously said. So what in the field of technology for the home – and specifically for beautifying the home – could appear convincingly magical? 

I would suggest perhaps this, from Swedish startup Flyte. It’s a lightbulb that hovers, lit up, a few centimetres above its wooden base while also revolving slowly and rocking gently if currents of air buffet it.

It’s all done with magnetism, a natural force that hugely attracts me (see what I did there?). Magnetism is the most mysterious phenomenon, aside from gravity. I will play endlessly with magnets, such as the ones used as fasteners on a good travel bag. And don’t get me going about the Siemens and ThyssenKrupp-built magnetic levitation (maglev) train that links Shanghai’s Pudong Airport with a spot closer to the city centre — at 430kph. It is the best public transport experience anywhere; even with jetlag, I chortle delightedly at the magnetically induced, frictionless ride, and at the way I hurtle past the vastly more expensive taxis and limos that people hire to get into town.

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Flyte is arguably more science-fair project than practical light. It doesn’t really throw a useful beam, or light up a room. But the science of getting the glass bulb to float in mid-air is remarkable, and transmitting sufficient power through the air gap to light a few LEDs is even more intriguing (this low-voltage wireless power transmission is achieved by what is termed “resonant inductive coupling”).

All that said, the Flyte could still all too easily be a poorly made product. Far from it: it’s of sublime quality, from the choice of wood to the workmanship. Even the old-school twisted, fabric‑covered cable has been selected for style, colour and quality. So as well as being a light, it is a mini work of art.

The company behind it has a growing range of electromagnetically levitating products, including a fantastic floating silicone plant pot, Lyfe (€249), featuring an air plant that grows untethered and gently revolves, exactly like the lightbulb (check out the video of Lyfe on Flyte’s website). Oh, and there’s a floating clock in the works – Story – that looks as if it will be simply stunning. Take a look at Flyte’s wonderful website with its cool Nordic aesthetic to see more of these superb and innovative products.

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