Technology 

Throw some shade at your office space with voice-controlled, self-tinting glass

Glass that tints itself according to light exposure has been around for a while. Transition lenses already do that for people with eyeglasses, for example. And one Minnesota-based company has found a new way to expand this notion.

Sage Electrochromics has been around since 1989, and in recent years showed off a prototype of its dynamic glass called SageGlass LightZone — capable of creating up to three tint zones within a single pane of electrochromic glass. In the three years since, Sage has further developed its revolutionary product to allow users to control the dynamic tinting of the glass. Its latest innovation comes in the form of integration with Amazon Echo, which means that you can now control your actual window with your voice.

So what exactly is SageGlass? At its core, it’s a dynamic glass designed to tint on demand based on the position of the sun in the sky. Available in a variety of shapes (including trapezoid, parallelogram, and triangle) and colors (clear, blue, green, and gray), SageGlass can be produced in sizes as large as 5 × 10 feet. This allows you to let in exactly the right amount of light and block the sun only where it needs to be blocked.

Depending on where you want natural light to flow through your room, this dynamic window could be helpful. Say you only want one corner to be illuminated, while the rest of the room stays shaded; SageGlass could leave a triangular portion of the window untinted to permit a ray of light.

Not only could the product suit your lighting preferences, but it could eventually help you reduce energy costs, as well. The need for shades and blinds may also decrease, depending on how many you install, and indeed, SageGlass could be an effective option in residential and commercial spaces alike.

Previously, tinting and shape selection were accessible only through a smartphone app. Professional designers and architects would create the shapes and patterns available to consumers, and the glass itself was programmable. But now, with the Amazon Echo integration, the glass is far more flexible (not physically, of course). Instead of being tied to their smartphones, office managers with SageGlass (alas, Amazon Echo integration is available only in the commercial product) can now control the dynamic glass’ tint with a simple voice command. That means you can now optimize the amount of sunlight you receive or prevent heat gain and glare, all without lifting a finger — or buying blinds.

“The use of IoT technologies such as voice in buildings is growing in popularity as building owners place more emphasis on occupant comfort, convenience, and productivity,” SageGlass CEO Alan McLenaghan said in a statement. “SageGlass can already be integrated with most building management systems and controlled via mobile app, so the next natural technological progression for our dynamic glass is the use of voice commands as an added convenience to building owners and occupants.”

With the Echo integration, customers can now issue commands such as, “Alexa, ask SageGlass to reduce glare,” or “Alexa, ask SageGlass to let the warm sunshine in,” and watch the glass tint in response.

“We feel voice control can empower occupants by providing them with command over the lighting conditions in their building. Providing this sense of empowerment has been proven to have a positive impact on all occupants, from increasing patient recovery rates in the health care setting to improving productivity in the workplace,” McLenaghan added.

The Echo integration is available for all commercial SageGlass installations completed after May 2018.

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