Who says wallflowers don’t grab people’s attention? A new type of electronically enhanced wallpaper promises not only eye-pleasing designs, but also the ability to activate lamps and heaters – and even control music systems.
Interactive walls are nothing new, but most rely on expensive sensors and power-hungry projectors to make the wall come alive. Now the Living Wall project, led by Leah Buechley at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Media Lab, offers an alternative by using magnetic and conductive paints to create circuitry in attractive designs.
When combined with cheap temperature, brightness and touch sensors, LEDs and Bluetooth, the wall becomes a control surface able to “talk” to nearby devices. You can touch a flower to turn on a lamp, for example, or set heaters to fire up when the room gets cold.
“Our goal is to make technologies that users can build on and change without needing a lot of technical skill,” says Buechley.
To create the wallpaper, the team started with steel foil sandwiched between layers of paper that are coated with magnetic paint – acrylic paint infused with iron particles. Over this base they paint motifs such as flowers and vines using conductive paint, which uses copper particles rather than iron. The designs form circuits to which sensors, lights and other elements can be attached.
“It really is just a sheet of paper, and could be produced with existing printing and construction methods,” Buechley says.
I had an idea years ago for a wall paper entertainment system. Turn all of your walls and ceiling, possibly even your floor into HD screens and you could do some amazing things. Beginnings of a Holodeck.