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Nanoleaf moves beyond your walls with new Learning Series smart lights

Panels? Psh. Nanoleaf wants to be a whole-home smart lighting platform.

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Nanoleaf

Nanoleaf first shot to prominence a few years ago with triangular wall panels that change colors and respond to voice commands from Alexa, Siri and the Google Assistant. Now, after following those panels up with touch-sensitive square and hexagonal versions, the Toronto-based smart lighting startup is looking to flesh things out with a new approach to whole-home smart lighting that's a little less two-dimensional.

Called the Nanoleaf Learning Series and tentatively slated to debut early in 2021, the idea is for Nanoleaf to serve as a dedicated smart lighting platform that's capable of lighting up a lot more than just your walls. To that end, the series includes a color-changing smart bulb, a smart dimmer switch, and accessories that can trigger your lights, like a motion sensor.

There's also a new Nanoleaf Learning Gateway, which acts as a plug-in hub that you can use to bridge a connection between Nanoleaf's cloud and third-party devices that work with it. No word from Nanoleaf yet on partnerships like those, but I'm wondering if a "Works with Nanoleaf"-type program might be in the works. 

It wouldn't be the first time Nanoleaf sought to serve as a larger lighting platform for the connected home. The company's original smart lighting starter kit was an early Apple HomeKit hub that was capable of controlling other HomeKit-compatible Zigbee gadgets alongside the company's own bulbs. As with that setup, you'll control everything in the Learning Series (and everything that ends up working with it) alongside Nanoleaf's light panels in the Nanoleaf app.

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In 2020, expect to see the launch of Nanoleaf's six-sided, hexagonal panels, plus new "unified" panels that'll let you mix and match different shapes.

James Martin/CNET

Mix-and-match panels, too

Along with the Learning Series, Nanoleaf is also announcing new versions of its popular wall-mounted lights designed to support configurations that feature a mix of shapes. Nanoleaf calls them "unified light panels," and says that they'll support connections between new versions of the company's triangular, square and hexagonal panels for customers who want more of a tangram-type effect on their walls.

That, along with the broader appeal of the Learning Series accessories, might help the company to stay competitive against new challengers like LaMetric, which is set to release new triangular light panels of its own in early 2020. Those alternatives take a pixelated approach that's capable of putting out multiple colors per panel, whereas Nanoleaf's panels each only put out one color at a time.

"Despite the rise of smart home technology intended to simplify your life, many of these products are often counterintuitive and complicated to use," said Nanoleaf co-founder and CEO Gimmy Chu. "With the Learning Series, we're helping to simplify the smart home with technology that optimizes lighting automation to fit your life, so users can spend more time enjoying the experience."

Nanoleaf plans to showcase the new products at CES next week. We'll keep an eye out for them and update this post if we learn anything more.