CES isn’t as consumer-focused as it once was, despite the overt branding. (CES stands for “Consumer Electronics Show.”) Indeed, automotive and enterprise vendors have encroached on the Las Vegas show floor in recent years as some major consumer brands pull back. But there’s still consumer tech news to be had, fortunately. Case in point: Nanoleaf, the brand behind the iconic wall-mounted, geometric LED lighting, is introducing an array of products this week to showcase its latest technical innovations.
First up is the Sense+ Controls, which Nanoleaf is calling its first “learning smart light switches.” The lineup of devices — which comprises the hardwired Smart Light Switch, Wireless Smart Light Switch and Nala Learning Bridge — work with Matter, the smart home interoperability protocol, and run on the low-power mesh networking standard Thread. All three Sense+ Controls products have motion and ambient lighting sensors to automate routines, while the Nala Learning Bridge — which connects Thread devices including Nanoleaf’s to Wi-Fi or ethernet — works as a color-changing night light with a soft glow.
Perhaps the real star of the show where it concerns Sense+ Controls, though, is Nala, an intelligent assistant that attempts to learn preferences from how a person uses and programs Nanoleaf products around the house. Running on the Nala Learning Bridge or an existing Nanoleaf Thread Border Router (coming via a free firmware upgrade), Nala creates personalized automations and attempts to handle certain actions informed by its learnings, like turning off the lights, adjusting the brightness and color and choosing lighting scenes.
“We wanted to push the boundaries of what a ‘Smarter’ home can look like. With app and voice controls, the smart home is still very much based on manual controls and has not reached its full potential of what smart can be,” Gimmy Chu, the CEO of Nanoleaf, told TechCrunch in an email interview. “Combined with the vision of a hands-free smart home, we wanted to pair this with a smart lighting assistant that was user-friendly and relatable, which is when Nala was born.”
Nanoleaf certainly isn’t the first to attempt to inject intelligence and proactivity into the smart home. Amazon has long made a show of Alexa’s “ambient intelligence” capabilities, while Google has dipped its toes in the space repeatedly over the years. Nanoleaf isn’t claiming that Nala is the best attempt at the intelligent home yet. But it is asserting that, because Nala’s control is strictly limited to lighting, the assistant is more likely to behave in a desirable way. Simply put, there’s less that can go wrong.
“Nala creates smart automations for your home, which can either be set to appear as suggestions or automatically applied to your lighting,” Chu said. “Nala’s learning capabilities grow more intelligent and accurate with the amount of sensors within the space. Each smart light switch will help Nala to learn better and offer more accurate predictive actions like turn on and off, seamless brightness adjustments, scene selection and more.”
Beyond Nala and Sense+ Controls, Nanoleaf unveiled Nanoleaf 4D, an ambient (and Matter-compatible) backlighting kit for large-screen TVs. Similar to AmbiVision and other such systems, Nanoleaf 4D relies on an LED light strip and a camera to record what’s happening on the display and “extend” the picture by illuminating corresponding LEDs. Nanoleaf 4D features four screen modes, with 50 addressable zones on the five-meter light strip, and comes bundled with snap-on brackets as well as adhesives for easy (in theory) installation.
Nanoleaf 4D is also the first to ship with Nanoleaf’s Sync+ technology, which synchronizes it with other Nanoleaf products on the same network. Sync+ can mirror what’s on screen to both Nanoleaf 4D and other Nanoleaf lighting fixtures, and it can additionally sync colors and animations so a single scene plays continuously across a room.
Not to be outdone (and clearly firing on all cylinders), Nanoleaf announced the Nanoleaf Skylight, a modular flush-mount ceiling fixture that works with Matter, alongside the Sense+ Controls and Nanoleaf 4D. Coming in a square modular RGBW LED form factor that delivers 16 million colors, the Skylight can be arranged with other Skylights to create overhead designs and comes with features for adjusting the brightness, colors and color temperatures and setting schedules.
As a bonus, the Skylight can act as a Thread Border Router and packs Sense+ sensors to enable motion and light sensing.
Last but not least, Nanoleaf debuted the Matter-certified Essentials Bulbs and Lightstrip, which offer “mesmerizing” animations for different activities (in the company’s words). Existing Nanoleaf owners needn’t rush out to buy them strictly for the Matter connectivity, though — Nanoleaf says that its full line of modular light panels and light bars will be Matter-upgradeable later this year.
The Sense+ Controls line and Skylight are expected to launch in Q3 2023, Nanoleaf says — a few months after the Essentials Bulbs and Lightstrip (which will arrive sometime in Q1). Nanoleaf 4D will come to market in Q2 in two length options, meanwhile — 55″-65″ and 70″-80″. No word on pricing yet.