Researchers Develop Smart Paint

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Researchers developed a smart paint that can sense human touch and gestures, according to a new study published on April 25, 2018.

Scientists at Carnegie Mellon University and Disney Research, U.S., transformed dumb walls into smart ones, using a paint made through simple tools and techniques. The team developed a conductive paint that can sense human touch and detect gestures and appliances. This was created at a low cost of US$ 20 per square meter.

“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. 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,” said Chris Harrison, assistant professor at Carnegie Mellon.
The team was able to create electrodes across the surface of a wall, by applying the conducive paint to it. Users could thus place or move light switches or other controls anywhere on the wall, or even control video games using gestures.

The system adjusted light levels in a room when a TV was turned on, as well as was able to alert a user in another location when a laundry machine or electric kettle turned off. “Walls are large, so we knew that whatever technique we invented for smart walls would have to be low cost,” said Yang Zhang, a PhD student at Carnegie Mellon University.

Researchers made use of painter’s tape to make a cross-hatched pattern on a wall to create a grid of diamonds. This was observed to be the most effective electrode pattern. Two coats of conductive paint was applied to the wall using a roller, after which the tape was removed and the electrodes were connected. The wall was then finished with a top coat of standard latex paint, this helped improve the durability and hide the electrodes. This wall could then operate in two modes namely, capacitive sensing and electromagnetic (EM) sensing.

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