After Nanoleaf saw breakout success with its unique lineup of color-changing LED wall panels that you can automate and control with your voice, I had a feeling it was only a matter of time before we saw more more options like them vying for a spot on our walls.
And at CES 2019, a startup called LaMetric just came out of nowhere with what might be the best-looking option to date.
It's called LaMetric Sky, and it's a set of right triangular LED panels that you'll stick up to your walls with double-sided tape. Once they're up, you'll be able to create custom scenes and trigger them with voice commands using Alexa, Siri or the Google Assistant. Pricing and availability isn't finalized yet, nor is the number of panels you'll get in a starter kit, but for now, LaMetric thinks they'll come in an eight-pack when they launch.
Each of those panels is broken into 32 individual little triangles of light, each of them capable of putting out its own color. The effect, which the LaMetric team says was inspired by stained glass windows, looks admittedly striking -- and it opens up some interesting new possibilities beyond the pretty colors.
LaMetric is best known for, a desktop doodad from 2014 that displays pixelated notifications for things like calendar appointments and weather updates. Now, five years later, the company wants to put that same approach into its Sky wall panels. With multiple zones of light sectioned off like triangular pixels, the panels can display fun-looking versions of those same metrics and status updates.
That means you can use them as an artistic, mosaic-like display for your living room, or as a funky-looking logo or follower count for your business or home office. That's a level of versatility that Nanoleaf -- which just announced new, hexagon-shaped panels at literally the exact same time as LaMetric's announcement -- can't currently match.
The competitor that comes the closest would actually be Lifx, which sells square-shapedfor your walls. Unlike Nanoleaf panels, which can all only put out one color per panel, each Lifx Tile contains 64 individually controllable zones of light -- but it doesn't section them off for a pixelated effect like LaMetric does. That causes the light to bleed together like tie dye. You can write on them, kind of, but you won't get anything crisp or precise, and you can't set them to display textual notifications, follower counts, weather updates, or anything of the sort.
With 32 zones of light on each panel, LaMetric basically snapped the Lifx Tile in half diagonally, sectioned off the zones, and leaned into the pixelated design. I think it's a brilliant approach. Not only do you get the versatility of using them as an artsy mosaic or using them for notifications, but you also get some nice flexibility over how you arrange them. Put two together diagonally, and you get a square. Break them up along other sides, and you get something more geometrically abstract.
Also cool: Those triangular pixels are precise enough to display unique codes during setup. Once you're finished putting them up on the wall, just scan the code on the panels with your phone's camera. LaMetric's proprietary process will automatically figure out how you've got them configured.
LaMetric doesn't have pricing details finalized yet, and there isn't a release date yet, either. As good as they look, bringing these panels to market at the same scale as Nanoleaf or Lifx, both of which already enjoy plum placement on retail shelves, will likely be a challenge.
That said, those competitors both show that it's possible for a smallish name in smart lighting to find breakout success with a likable, color-changing novelty gadget. Time will tell if LaMetric's panels can find a path into people's living rooms, but here at CES at least, color me impressed.
Originally published Jan. 8.
Update, Jan. 9: Added first impressions video.
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