I would love to tell you how long I have not been waiting for a set of colour-changing, touch-sensitive, voice-activated LED decorative light panels to work as a living, reactive home-interior feature, but it’s certainly since before I started writing about technology, and that was around the time of the invention of the electric telegraph.
In truth, I probably have more smart tech in my house than most normal people – the various smart speakers, the Nest heating control, the security camera, the internet-connected Thermomix robot chef. But I still find most smart-home gadgetry ludicrous. Alexa-controlled lighting in particular – or Alexified anything – is literally the stupidest advance ever dreamed up, unless of course you are disabled, which is when this stuff stops being junk and starts earning its living.
You can imagine, then, how thrilled I was when I was sent a starter set of these lit-up panels, which you can stick on the wall in infinite patterns and can be set to react colourfully to sound, or be set from a phone app or, yes, voice commands to create various “scenes”. If the sender had mentioned that the Nanoleaf system was a spinoff from the University of Toronto, I might have paid it attention, but they didn’t. Apart from it being a wonderful city, I love the tech coming out of Toronto. It seems to combine north American flair with Canadian sensibleness and Chinese brilliance, as does Nanoleaf.
The Nanoleaf Canvas set remained, nonetheless, untouched for weeks until my son noticed them, pronounced them cool and took them home. He installed them (recommending fixing them with Velcro sticky pads, by the by, rather than the supplied adhesives) and both he and his tech-sceptical wife fell in love with even the pretty basic nine-panel Canvas starter pack. And I have to admit, they are quite enchanting. Magical, almost.
I particularly like the “rain” and “sunrise” scenes. Nanoleaf does a variety of shapes – there’s a new hexagonal design that some will find more adaptable than the squares. If you are serious about decorative mood-lighting, you can control as many as 500 panels together. That would be something, voice-controlled or not.