Walking up the steps to 77 Mass. Ave. on the evening of April 4, I encountered three strange circles above the doorway. Two were mirrored, one was glowing. At first I thought it was an elaborate hack, but it turns out it was part of an energy conservation research project called Local Warming by the Senseable City Lab.
The concept is brilliantly simple: rather than heating vast, often unoccupied (or sparsely occupied) rooms in buildings, target the people who need the heat. The local warming device is an infrared energy beam directed by a sophisticated motion sensor. To engage it, you step on a pair of footprints on a carpet, then the beam follows you around.
Says the research project’s website: “While over time there has been improved retention of pervasive heating through developments in materials and construction, we believe a fundamental shift in climate control strategy towards occupant-localized heating will achieve an order of magnitude improvement in heating efficiency.”
Watch some footage of the Local Warming project in action below.