We caught up with Nanoleaf co-founder Christian Yan while he was in Sydney promoting their latest products.

Nanoleaf is one of the world’s leading smart home companies, specialising in custom lighting solutions for the home. We spoke with Christian Yan about all things Nanoleaf Lighting Panels and their upcoming new product, Canvas.

Can you tell me a little more about your role and how Nanoleaf came to be?

I am one of the co-founders and CEO. There are three founders, and each founder watches different parts of the company. I take care of the operations here in Asia, and I’m responsible for the Asia-Pacific, Oceania and Europe. Then, we also have a CEO who operates out of North America, and they cover that region – which is quite a big market for us. Our CPO flies back and forth from Asia to Canada.

Our business is about 50 people strong; I think we’re probably Apple’s smallest customers in the world. We run a team full of very young-hearted people, and we basically came from making the world’s most energy-efficient light bulb. That was about five years ago. What we really believe in is pushing energy efficient lighting through beautiful design and innovation. A classic model would be like Tesla, for example; really pushing efficiency through beautiful design, and that’s what we want to do with our smart panels. This light panel space is something we kind of created on our own – by accident – and we’re really trying to dominate it. Each panel is one watt each, so it’s extremely energy efficient, but we wanted to add that ‘smart’ aspect to it so it’s very easy ot use for the consumers.

Where did the idea for the light panels themselves come from initially?

Smart lighting and smart homes got a really big push around four years ago. We were doing our smart lighting and we kind of just wanted these products to be connected. We knew the smart home space would be in its infant stages, and we thought we could really jump on the bandwagon soon, but we knew that the design of the light could change. There was something we call the ‘form factor’ where we really think we could change lighting as a form factor.

The concept of the light bulb is 150 years old, and it needs to be plugged into a socket, it needs power, and every company is doing exactly the same thing since the Edison days. So, we thought by changing the form factor, given that we’re at the right time with the smart home boom, that that could interest a lot of consumers. We showed off this prototype, and everyone was attracted to it. The main thing with these light panels is you are able to put them anywhere – on the ceiling, on the wall – it doesn’t need a light socket. That’s what actually differentiates our product from the rest of the light bulb world.

When you set out to make the light panels, did you having particularly gaming setups involved, or was it intended more of a broad lifestyle choice?

Definitely for lifestyle. Our product not only touches the LED world, it touches the smart home industry. So they say, ‘oh this if for edge-lit lighting, this if for décor’ and we say ‘yes it is’. You can put it in your living room, or your bedroom, and it gives you good light, but at the same time you can say ‘Hey Siri, lights on’ or ‘Siri, wake me up in the morning’, and it will listen. But where the gamers came into play was we had a lot of connections with people at Razer and a few other companies, and all these platforms are now also pushing the esports games section, and what they’re trying to do is have light integrations. So, we’re a perfect fit. All our lights are integrated with these guys and for gamers they’re really able to have a more specific space for lights.

What can you tell us about the new Nanoleaf Remote?

The remote is like a smart Bluetooth switch, in the shape of a dodecahedron; think about a really beautiful design control that’s made sort of like a ball, or a rock [or a die], that you can put on your table or on your mantelpiece and through Bluetooth it can actually control a light depending on which side faces upwards. It’s a really cool idea. We also have haptic feedback, so when you’re twisting it to the left or twisting it to the right you’re actually changing the brightness of your lights.

What about the new Canvas?

So, this is our second sheet in our light panel series. It’s a square shape [unlike the first light panels which are triangles] and some of the features are that it has edge-to-edge lighting, so you don’t see any dark spots on it where the LEDs are sort of hidden. It’s very slim, so once again we want to design something that’s extremely beautiful for artists and designers, and one of the key features of course is it has WiFi. It’s also Apple and Google integrated. You have millions of colours at your fingertips. So I’ve outlined all the basics are there, but what’s special on the Canvas is it’ll have a touch sensor on each panel so that it’s reactive to touch.  So imagine, depending on different scenes that are pre-programmed, you can sort of paint the panels. You can swipe on the panels to give it different colours. Later on kids can step on it, can touch it and play different games on it. It opens so many different doors on the software side.

It just paints such a vivid image of what the home of the future could look like. 

We really see it like a building material. We want it to compete with tiles in the future. We want to see it when builders do hotels, we want you to build it in your bedrooms so that later on when you swipe the light panel beside your bed it will actually know that you want to send an email, or it knows that you want to dim the brightness down, so there are a lot of applications that are attached to this.

Do you have a release window for it yet?

Yep! We are launching in November in North America and we’re hoping to do the same here. I think we just have to confirm the logistics and the store.

Nanoleaf’s Light Panels and Remote are available now in JB Hi-Fi – the Canvas is coming soon