Annelie Berner


AiryLight displays real-time local air quality and projects that data through changing light patterns on the ceiling.


AiryLight's visualization provokes curiosity about air quality as a broader environmental issue. Using a moving lens, the light that is emitted from the AiryLight fixture has a varying degree of clarity in its pattern; the smallest, simplest light patterns represent the best air quality, focused patterns represent the midway between good and unhealthy, and the haziest patterns represent the worst air quality.

While the pattern represents an abstract view of the data, etched gears display more detailed information. Tiny changes in particulate matter outside are mapped to the subtle changes in the form of the light pattern. The continuous function creates an ambiance, indoors, that informs you of the environment, outdoors.

The data is from the New York City site of the Air Quality Index, measured in particulate matter 2.5 m.

In my research, I considered what environmental data might be relevant to our daily life, and might lend itself to a physical display. After looking into various datasets that display daily change, I narrowed in on air quality as an issue that is both regionally relevant as well as internationally impactful. I studied datasets of air quality from 1998-2012 and discovered interesting fluctuations, though within an overall norm for New York City of 0 to 100 PM2.5 (Particulate matter below 2.5 diameter). Furthermore, differences in air quality can be categorized into specific states - good, moderate, bad - thus I knew I could map the states and their in-betweens to consistent visual outputs.

I knew I wanted to make something that could live in your home, that would inspire curiosity and delight even, compelling you to pay attention through its appearance as well as its rich information.

I began to play with various display options, considering how to show dynamic information in an abstract way, yet not so abstractedly that it lost meaning. I came upon the method of making light patterns by changing the height of a magnifying lens over bright LEDs and settled on it - because the differences in patterns are obvious, and because the concentric circles formed by the worsening air quality were reminiscent of the microscopic concentric circle patterns that some of the worst particulate matter make.

User Scenario
Someone comes up to the lamp, looks at the gears, looks at the overhead pattern, looks at the gears again, understands the connection between these components and their data source of Air Quality, returns to the light a few seconds later to enjoy the abstract visualization of information.

A 12x12 box on the wall with exposed gears and light labeling to indicate where the air quality is on a scale of 0-100. A metal rod is installed a few inches above the gearbox, containing the light. A magnifying lens hangs on invisible thread above this light - the thread is connected to a spoke on the gears and thus changes its height as the air quality changes.