Nanoleaf's next smart bulb isn't a bulb at all

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Nanoleaf's triangular Aurora LED panels can connect to one another on any of their three sides.

Tyler Lizenby/CNET

Nanoleaf is best known for its 3D-printed LED light bulbs, but the lighting company's next release might ditch the bulb altogether. Currently in the prototype phase, Nanoleaf Aurora is a smart lighting kit consisting of triangular LED panels. Arrange them on your wall in any pattern you like. Then sync them with the Nanoleaf Hub and you'll be able to program color-changing lighting effects right from your phone.

Each Aurora panel can connect to another one by any of its three edges. The order you arrange the panels is how they'll show up in the app and you'll be able to configure lighting changes that sweep cleanly across each panel. Whether those are bold, vivid colors or more low-key daylight tones that sync with your circadian rhythms is entirely up to you.

Nanoleaf plans on selling starter kits consisting of 10 Aurora panels along with a power unit that also houses the wireless transceiver. The power unit can connect to any one of the panels and power up to 30 of them. You can either plug it in, or avoid visible wires by connecting it directly to your home's power line.

A Nanoleaf Ivy smart bulb with the dodecahedron-shaped Nanoleaf Hub.

Chris Monroe/CNET

Like Nanoleaf's Ivy smart bulbs, the Aurora panels transmit a ZigBee signal to the Nanoleaf Hub. This connects to your home's Wi-Fi router and allows you to control the panels from your phone. Nanoleaf's team isn't sure if they'll include the hub with the starter kit or not, but they tell me that they're also toying with the idea of a dodecahedron-shaped (12-sided) controller that will act as a unique physical switch for the panels. Each face would represent a different lighting preset -- to pick one, just rotate it to the top.

Nanoleaf's team promises that integrations with leading home automation systems are currently in the works, though they also tell me that it's too early to confirm compatibility with any specific platforms. The Nanoleaf Ivy bulbs launched with Apple HomeKit compatibility, which allowed iOS users to control them with Siri. That would seem to be the safest bet for the Aurora, as well. Ivy bulbs will also work with Google Weave later this year when Nanoleaf releases its Android app.

Nanoleaf hopes to begin selling Aurora starter kits this summer.

Nanoleaf

Nanoleaf is aiming to start selling the Aurora by July of this year. Pricing is yet to be determined, though Nanoleaf's CEO Gimmy Chu tells me that the goal is to make Aurora as accessible -- and affordable -- as possible. "Our target has been to sell this at $99 for 10 panels," Chu says. "However, $199 seems to be a more realistic number. As a new company without well-established sales channels, sometimes we don't have as much leverage as the bigger lighting giants do."

Nanoleaf currently sells its bulbs internationally through its website -- if the Aurora starter kit ends up ringing in at $199, the price will convert to about £135, or AU$275.

$199 isn't inexpensive, but it isn't outrageous, either. You'll pay just as much for the Philips Hue starter kit, another HomeKit-compatible smart lighting option. As an innovative and futuristic alternative to smart bulbs -- and one that seems to have been specifically designed with color-changing smart lighting in mind -- Aurora looks like it'll be worth keeping an eye on this year.

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Nanoleaf Aurora

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