We all know fluorescent bulbs flicker; wave your hand in front of one and you see the stroboscopic effect. And even though the lights can flicker faster than the human eye can detect, it can still cause problems: "Although humans cannot see fluorescent lights flicker, the sensory system in some individuals can somehow detect the flicker," says a 1989 lighting research study on the topic. "Ever since fluorescent lighting was introduced in workplaces, there have been complaints about headaches, eye strain and general eye discomfort." I'm wondering if this recent Li-Fi technology will cause the same problem.
Hopefully not, because Li-Fi is a really neat idea that essentially promises to replace your wireless router with a simple (LED) lightbulb that does double duty, both illuminating your room and sneakily transmitting data. By cycling the light on and off faster than we can see, it produces binary. And binary, of course, is data. It's basically fiber optics without the fiber, relying instead on line-of-sight. And it works: Li-Fi researchers at the University of Edinburgh led by Li-Fi pioneer Harald Haas have already transformed standard LED bulbs into 130-megabit-per-second routers. The implications of this are huge. If incorporated on a broad scale, it essentially means a wireless hotspot anywhere there's a lightbulb. In your apartment, if you were worried about someone stealing your wireless connection, all you'd have to do is close the blinds. Alternatively, public spaces like airports, Starbucks, or even highways lit at night by streetlamps could all distribute broadband on a mass scale.
In this TED talk from last year, Haas provides a demonstration and a multitude of reasons for why Li-Fi should happen. The video's nearly 13 minutes long, and while I normally list timecodes so you can skip the boring parts of any given video, there's not a minute of this presentation that's extraneous: