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Touch Control Explained

August 3rd, 2015 by Colin Merkel

When people first see the aerelight in person, one of the first things they ask is: “so I can just touch the lamp anywhere? How does that work?”

That’s a good question! A lot of work went into perfecting the touch control for the lamp, and I’m always proud to see the surprised reactions when people touch it for the first time. In this quick blog post, I’ll give a bit more explanation about what’s going on behind the scenes when the aerelight senses your touch.


The human body is 50-60% water by weight. Although water is neutrally charged, water molecules have a dipole moment, which is a fancy way of saying that they can respond to electric fields by re-orienting themselves. When they are oriented in a particular way, they can partially cancel out the electric field.

Touch Control in the aerelight A1

Thousands of times per second, the aluminum frame of the lamp is charged to a tiny voltage. Normally, when the lamp isn’t being touched, it takes a fraction of a second to charge up fully. But when your finger touches the lamp, the charges from the water molecules in your finger acts like speed bumps for the charging speed in the aluminum frame: meaning that the charging time gets a bit longer. The electronics in the lamp senses that slight change and detects the touch.

Modern mobile phones use the same principle to detect touches on their screen! That is why only your finger can activate your mobile phone, and it doesn’t work when you’re wearing a glove. The glove does not contain water, so it doesn’t affect the charging time, which means that the electronics cannot detect the touch.

Closing Thoughts

Arthur C. Clarke once said “Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.” We worked hard to make touch control work well, because it enables the simple, minimalist design of the aerelight, and creates a surprising and delightful experience. The touch experience of the aerelight may feel like magic, but behind the scenes, it’s just engineering!

— Colin

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