Like most things Dyson, this is no ordinary approach to an ordinary household appliance.
Most of us don’t even feel the need to put our indoor lighting under scrutiny. You simply press a button and it works, right? Wrong. Dyson’s research has proven that ambient and even age-related factors can change how you perceive illumination at home or on your desk. In comes their latest labour of a two-year development program, the Lightcycle desk lamp.
I’ve got the “Pixar lamp” on my desk for longer than I can remember but unfortunately, it has also been bulb-less for as long as I can remember because of the frequent death of incandescent bulbs in general. Yet, it never bothered me because the main overhead lights always get the job done. But, as if they exist to question the norm, Dyson engineers have slipped a new courier under my nose and it is honestly the least glamorous of their recent launches. Until you open the packaging and feel it’s exposed engineering beauty and understand why it exists.
Design: Exposed engineering
It’s a bit of a DIY project, but one that won’t take more than a couple of minutes if you’re even slightly mechanically bent, or not. The clear instructions help you assemble the 3-part unit briskly and the first thing that wows you is the fluidity of motion across its 3-axis - up/down, front/back slider and the 360° rotating base. There’s no angle adjust as Dyson engineers believe this scatters the light, reducing the efficiency of its focus. Designed on a weight-based pulley system, the exposed bearings and springs make for a rather unusual looking Dyson product.
Their vacuum cleaners and air purifiers have always been dressed in sci-fi garb, concealing all the high-tech rather smartly and yet, there is a purity to the design of the Lightcycle that makes it stand out with its starkness. The advantages of all the over-engineering means the softest touch is required to get this smart lamp to the precise height and position that is required for a particular task. No, it’s not motorised and it doesn’t run on battery power so this is still very much a lamp designed to be used in close proximity to the work desk, but there is a floor-standing version too but no launch date has been announced for that model yet.
The “smartness” in this smart lamp is multi-fold. It starts from the very core of its design, which is essentially six high-power LEDs that are kept cool by way of a vacuum-sealed copper tube that takes heat away from the head of the light and while the heat is being transferred to the other end of the tube, a drop of water condenses and evaporates, cooling the whole assembly and returning back to the LEDs by way of capillary action! This is like watching a physics experiment live in action, only a lot cooler!
The LEDs themselves are controlled by a 32-bit microprocessor that analyses the data it receives from the Dyson Link app on the lamps location, time of day, ambient light and perhaps even if you’ve had a bad day with the boss! Dyson’s daylight algorithm uses time, date and GPS data to calculate the precise brightness and temperature of the light emitted by the Lightcycle, if you choose to use it in the Synchronise mode.
Sliding controls on top of the head give you the choice of light intensity (brightness) and light temperature (cool/warm) and work effectively with precise control due to the responsive touch reaction. On the underside of the stalk, you have additional controls to re-sync the Lightcycle to a new location if you happen to move it to a different room, movement sensor activation and auto on/off along with a little nub which is the ambient light sensor.
Within the LED head itself, the colour-mixing chamber is engineered to give you uniform light with a high shadow quality and we could vouch for this as it instantly became the source for product shoots the moment we switched it on! But it’s also the detailed engineering that helps the Lightcycle justify its existence and high ticket price. The lower part of the reflector unit is engineered to cut out glare and focus more light on the surface for a better working environment that hopefully is fatigue free.
What is instantly visible is that even though there are six individual LED elements, the combined output falls on the surface as one, evenly lit spotlight and is achieved by using a heptagonal reflector split by a layer of diffusion film, similar to a soft-box used by photographers to soften the studio lights.
Performance: Brighten up your day!
In effect and use, the Lightcycle makes for a pleasant companion, intelligently and dynamically changing its colour temperature between 2700 to 6500 kelvin and brightness between 100 and 1000 lux depending on time of day and the indoor conditions. Simple tasks like reading the daily newspaper or tinkering about on your laptop at night become tangibly more comfortable over extended periods of time.
Of course, the smart bits of the Lightcycle are mostly driven through the Dyson Link app and you can schedule wake and sleep times with a specific colour temperature, ask for age-appropriate light depending on your own age or simply use the on-screen slider controls to mix the right amount of brightness and warmth to your working environment.
Presets like study, relax and precision let you experiment with the right mix for a particular task if you don’t want to be bothered by using the sliders yourself. Custom settings include setting up your own sunrise and sunset times and how you want the Lightcycle to illuminate your desk after dawn or dusk. To make life a little easier, there’s also a USB-C port for you to charge your daily gadgets without a fuss while the cable management of the Lightcycle itself is clean and uncluttered, just like an expensive work desk should look like.
For reading, working or like me, for desktop photography, the highly focused and precise light throw the Lightcycle offers is easy to get used to. It always casts the perfect shadows and the butter-like arm length and height adjustment just invited more experimentation.
But it’s also great as a bedside light, especially when you engage the Sleep mode where it won’t accidentally switch itself on if your hand gets too close and even when you do switch it on manually, it starts at minimum levels of brightness and colour temperature to avoid a rude awakening. Similarly, when it’s daytime, the Lightcycle will automatically adjust its levels to optimum so that there’s adequate light at all times.
Even in its 20-minute Boost mode where it maxes out the power, it never heated the desk or raised the ambient temperature to worrying levels and the adjustment of temperature created the perfect mood for reading, even if I wasn’t particularly inclined towards it.
Proof that light does affect our subconscious and moods! It will no doubt be difficult to go back to a regular lamp with zero settings and negative marks on aesthetics.
Dyson Lightcycle Verdict: Not for the faint hearted
There’s a lot you can do with light that perhaps we didn’t know about until Dyson shed some...er…light on the issue. But the truth is that Philips, Syska and plenty others are offering different kind of smarts through cheaper options.
Fun colours, voice control and integration with your home-automation systems to create specific moods might sound frivolous compared to the more scientific and practical approach taken by Dyson, but for almost ₹40,000, it is a hard sell even by their lofty engineering standards.
If you can afford it, certainly invest in one and reap the benefits of the perfect light for a claimed 60 years but if you’re looking for just another desktop lamp that gets the job done, you obviously are going to get the sticker shock.