Improve office productivity by working under fake clouds!

Being outside gives us a sense of freedom and spaciousness, and as far as some German engineers are concerned, that means increased work efficiency. That's why they've invented a "dynamic luminous ceiling" that simulates working outside during a clouding day.

The Stutgartt-based team have created a ceiling that simulates clouds passing overhead. But it's more than that - the ceiling actually changes and adjusts light levels in much the same way light levels fluctuate outside as the clouds slowly change. Basically, the ceiling is an attempt to trick the visual center of the brain into thinking you're outside, and that is meant to create a more pleasant working experience.

The ceiling is made up of lots of tiny tiles, each 50 centimeters by 50 centimeters. Each tile has 288 light emitting diodes - better known as LEDs - inside, and through a mix of red, blue, green, and white LEDs the ceiling can create over 16 million hues. The added bonus is that LEDs are energy efficient, so the entire ceiling won't take up more energy than a bunch of regular lights would. Team leader Dr. Matthias Bues explains the psychological effect of this ceiling:

. "The LEDs allow us to simulate these dynamic changes in lighting in a way that is not directly obvious to the naked eye. Otherwise the lighting might distract people from their work. But it does need to fluctuate enough to promote concentration and heighten alertness."

The initial tests do seem to suggest that people like working under simulated clouds. Ten volunteers were asked to work under these ceilings. On the first day, the lighting didn't change at all. On the second, the light fluctuated a little bit, and on the final day it fluctuated rapidly. When given a choice on the fourth day, eight of the volunteers chose the rapid fluctuations as their preferred working environment.

As bonkers as this idea might seem - and I'll be honest, this one sounds very bonkers to me - at least eight people seem to like it, which is a start. But I can't help but wonder about the one big drawback of working in an endless simulated cloudy day...sooner or later, aren't you going to miss the simulated Sun?

Via the Fraunhofer Institute for Industrial Engineering IAO. Image by Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft.