Lileo Light Fountain   

Project Overview

When retailer Syd Beder opened Lileo, his new fashion athletic wear store in Toronto, he was looking for a compelling experience that would reinforce Lileo’s brand while drawing customers into the store.  The Lileo Light Fountain was created in response to his desire for something truly unique.

Three stones sit on a large black steel surface near the store’s entrance.  Ethereal wisps of light play along the curved surface, circling the stones in constantly changing patterns.  When customers move a stone or place their hands on the surface, the swirling light wisps respond by seeking out orbits around and among the new positions of stones and hands.

Streams of light flow around and
among the stones.

The ephemeral light contrasts
with the solid stone and black steel.

Lileo's hangtags feature spirographs

Design Notes

The fountain was created to reinforce the Lileo brand’s themes of light and discovery – the name Lileo comes from Galileo.  The use of light, the orbiting nature of the wisps, and the layers of delightful discovery all serve to invoke the feeling of the brand.  The playful light patterns are also reminiscent of the spirographs that adorn Lileo’s hangtags.

The ephemerality of the light contrasts with the solidly elemental wood, steel, and stone of the fountain’s base.  In addition to the light wisps that circle the stones, there are “droplets” of light that slide down the curved edges of the steel, directing attention towards the active area, and adding to the subtle feeling of activity.  The physical materials of the base were chosen to reflect those used in the rest of the space. The reclaimed wooden beams are like those used to hold up display shelving, and the stones are similar to those used to create the front of the in-store juice bar.  The physical lines of the design are un-marred by the technology, which is mounted to the ceiling.

The stones are sized to feel comfortable in the hands of both children and adults.  The wooden edges provide a tall seat on which people can sit or lean while they dabble in the fountain or have a conversation. 


Responsive Environment Design

Responsive environment design in retail is an emerging field, with a handful of examples but few practitioners yet.  Technology-based retail experiences typically involve stand-alone kiosks or even simply video screens, rather than responsive environments.  By demonstrating the power of subtle and cleverly integrated technology, the Lileo Light Fountain invites designers to recognize the ability of highly responsive experiences to create a connection with customers.  By shifting the focus to the people and the interaction rather than the technology, the Lileo Light Fountain creates a magical experience within the store.

Interaction and Connection

“I could stand here all day. 
This thing is amazing!”

                  - Lileo patron

“Our studies prove that the longer a shopper remains in a store, the more he or she will buy.  And the amount of time a shopper spends in a store depends on how comfortable and enjoyable the experience is.”

- Paco Underhill in Why we Buy: The Science of Shopping

When humans perceive a reaction to their presence, it opens a “conversation” of action and response that begins a connection.  As they see their actions having an effect on their environment, people see themselves reflected in the space, creating an even deeper connection.  Further, people feel ownership and empowerment when they can point out something unique to a peer – the phenomenon of “social currency”. 

By creating a delightful experience that works for anyone – young and old, technophobe and technophile – the Lileo Light Fountain reaches out to customers to create a lasting connection to the store and the brand.  People are constantly calling friends over to “go ahead, move a rock,” and watching the amazed expressions form on their faces.

The store owner calls the fountain “The Spirit of Lileo” for the way that it reflects the brand and draws people to the store.  As one of the salespeople observed, “The fountain collects people the way a conventional fountain collects pennies.”  When customers enter the space, the salespeople often use the fountain as a way of breaking the ice.  “Would you like to play with the fountain?” is a strong opening that paves their way to a good relationship. 


Interacting with the fountain
is a social experience

Moving the stones results in
surprising and delightful responses.

The materials and placement
of the fountain integrate seamlessly
within the space.


The technical heart of the Lileo Light Fountain is a computer with sophisticated vision tracking software that detects and monitors the position of objects on the steel surface. The light whisps, projected using an LCD data projector, are then directed to move towards the stones using mathematical algorithms derived from planetary and fluid motion. The software is written in C++ and Java.

The high-gain camera used for sensing features a special lens and infra-red filter to better detect the physical objects among the projected imagery. An LED infra-red illuminator and automatic calibration software enable consistent vision sensing under the changing ambient lighting conditions of the store.

By mounting the projector, camera, and infra-red illuminator on the ceiling, we separated the delicate technology from the physical wear that results from constant handling.  Because there is no visible technology, people feel comfortable with the interaction: the fountain is perceived as a material object rather than a technological device, and there is no apprehension about breaking the system or pressing the wrong button.

By many measures, the Lileo Light Fountain has truly succeeded in creating a unique, compelling experience.  Loved by the client and the customers, it brings a bit of magic to Lileo.