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LOGAN, Utah (AP) -- One of the academic research projects receiving state funding would automatically adjust interior lights to suit the needs of people working inside buildings.
Researchers at Utah State University call it a leap beyond ordinary motion sensors that turn on lights when people enter a room.
The technology under development would allow room lights to adjust their brightness where and when people need it the most, while keeping other lights that aren't needed off.
The project has received $5 million in seed funding from the Utah Science, Technology and Research initiative.
Utah is using state money and federal stimulus funds to leverage long-term research projects with a commercial potential.
In another project, the University of Utah is forming a team to improve on battery technology.
There are 22 USTAR research teams between both schools working on new technologies, thanks to the state and federal funding.
Energy savings motivated Paul Israelsen's team at Utah State's new Energy Dynamics Laboratory.
Lighting accounts for one-fifth of the nation's electrical consumption. More than a third of a commercial building's energy use is devoted to the same thing.
Team members say huge energy savings can be realized if lighting systems are adapted to tasks and individuals' preferences.
Their goal is to devise lighting systems that anticipate what people want by observing past behavior, monitoring natural light and tracking movements. Lights will dim where illumination is not needed and brighten when needed for desks, conference tables or blackboards.
Another project at Utah State has art professor Alan Hashimoto developing interactive simulation programs to train firefighters, fire investigators, medics and other emergency responders to work together.
"Because it's multiplayer, you learn how to train with others," Hashimoto said. "It's like 'Doom.' In that case you're trying to shoot your buddies. In this one you want to coordinate with them and there's a facilitator watching everything."
They are also devising programs that simulate natural disasters including forest fires and climate change, he said.
(Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)