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CMU, Disney Research Paint for Smart Walls

Tuesday, May 1, 2018

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Researchers at Pittsburgh’s Carnegie Mellon University and a team from Disney Research recently unveiled a development that could transform an ordinary wall into a touch screen using just a few layers of paint.

The new capabilities, named Wall++, were outlined in a recent research paper that was presented at the Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems last week.

"Walls are usually the largest surface area in a room, yet we don't make much use of them other than to separate spaces, and perhaps hold up pictures and shelves," said Chris Harrison, assistant professor in CMU's Human-Computer Interaction Institute. "As the internet of things and ubiquitous computing become reality, it is tempting to think that walls can become active parts of our living and work environments.”

CMU says that Harrison, along with Ph.D. student Yang Zhang, professor Scott Hudson and Disney’s Alanson Sample and Chouchang Yang, found that they could use a conductive layer of paint to create electrodes on the surface of a wall, which then has the ability to track users’ touch and can also sense and track electrical devices and appliances.

The team knew they wanted to use a low-cost paint, so instead of starting with a coating containing silver, they chose a water-based paint containing nickel.

Using painter’s tape to create a cross-hatched pattern (diamonds are an effective electrode pattern), two coats of the conductive paint are applied with a roller. Then, the tape is removed and the electrodes are connected. The wall is then finished with a layer of standard latex paint for durability and opacity.

Once the wall is done, the electrodes connect to a sensor board. Right now the smart walls cost about $20 per square meter.


Tagged categories: Coatings Technology; Coatings Technology; North America; Research and development

Comment from Tom Schwerdt, (5/1/2018, 8:27 AM)

Okay, even after watching the video I'm failing to see any generally useful application. Motion tracking via camera is a solved problem, and cheap to implement. Appliance tracking is pretty easily done with a plugin module. I also note that the "$20 per square meter" is only the materials cost.

Comment from DR. C.D. Joshi, (5/1/2018, 10:40 AM)

Out of box thinking and a wonderful innovation. Now the challenge is to make these smart walls act as TV screens, face recognition and image storage device.These smart walls may one day help in crime detection within four walls. Let your imagination go wild and the scientist will create wonders with these smart walls. Hearty congratulations entire team and best of luck for future. Dr. C.D. Joshi

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