Over the past few years (specifically, when we started living 24/7 in the presence of LED lights), we’ve heard a lot about the ill effects of blue light. Blue light, which LEDs (including those that backlight LCD displays) are heavy in, trick the body into thinking it’s not time for bed yet, and can contribute to sleeplessness and a lack of restful sleep for the heaviest of tech users among us.
Usually, we hear about this problem with smartphones — that’s why we’ve seen night mode on so many phones recently. But, now that light bulbs are moving toward the more energy-efficient, longer lasting LEDs, everyday light fixtures now pose the same problem.
So, why not just use the same sort of night mode filter on LED light fixtures? It’s been done, but the results haven’t been pretty — literally. One look at a smartphone in night mode will tell you why — the light takes on an ugly yellowish tint that isn’t very pleasant to look at. Fortunately, Soraa, a company very serious about lighting, came to CES with the best of both worlds.
Helia, Soraa’s first go at consumer lighting, is an LED light that does not emit blue light while maintaining the appearance of even, white light. The trick is balance — the color of light is determined by how much of each part of the color spectrum is being produced. If blue light simply isn’t produced, the light’s color will be made up largely of some mix of red, orange, and yellow. Soraa uses a huge spike in violet light to offset that part of the spectrum, resulting in balanced, white light.
How did they manage that? Well, Soraa might be a newcomer to consumer tech, but they’re no strangers to lighting. There’s no questioning Soraa’s bona fides — their lights are in scores of the world’s finest museums, and hey, if their lights are good enough for the Palace of Versailles, they’re good enough for us. The company was able to develop LED crystals for violet light, which are more difficult to make reliable enough for everyday use.
While the elimination of blue light is the marquee feature here, the Helia bulbs can be equipped with some smarts. Soraa is creating a line of interchangeable sensors that slide into the center of the bulb. The first one will be an occupancy sensor that will turn lights on automatically when someone enters the room, then leave them on until the room is empty. That also means you can get up at night, go to the bathroom, and have the hallway light automatically come on without that light jolting you awake. But, during the day, the lights will be smart enough to not turn on if there’s enough natural light coming in from outside.
Soraa also has some limited app connectivity planned. Instead of using Wi-Fi, Helia bulbs are hardwired, using the home’s existing power lines to transmit data to each other. That means they’re a bit more secure, in case you’re worried about anyone hacking your lights. They’ll work with normal dimmer switches, too, so it’s possible to just use them as regular, dumb lights and leave it at that. When used with the app and your account, Helia bulbs can be synced with sunrise and sunset times in your area. From there, the hue of the light will change according to the time of day, which is something that you can customize, as well. If you want to dive deeper, you can get the Cloud Connect accessory, which enables Helia to be used with IFTTT and Alexa.
Soraa plans to launch Helia in spring of this year on their website. If you order through their website, you’ll be able to customize your order. When your shipment comes, the bulbs will be labeled for each room and come preloaded with any preferred settings you might have — all that’s needed is to log in to the app. The lights will be tied to your account, so should anyone manage to steal your lights, they won’t be able to use them. But, you can give others temporary permission to control the lights — Soraa reps suggested this would be useful for Airbnb hosts, for example.
When they launch, the Dynamic White BR30 bulbs will be $50 each, while the modular sensors will go for $30 each and the Cloud Connect accessory will be $50. Soraa is planning other models of bulbs, including some for A lamps (those won’t work with the smart modules, however).