There’s little joy in the design of light switches, thermostats, and other utilitarian control devices for the home. The best designs of the genre attempt to make them as minimal and unobtrusive as possible.
This “living wall” takes a different tack, incorporating sensors and switches into a wallpaper that you merely need to run your hand across to control. As the wall’s creators say:
Run your hand across this wallpaper to turn on a lamp, play music, or control your toaster. This interactive wallpaper can be programmed to monitor its environment and control other electronic devices, serving as a beautiful and unobtrusive way to enrich environments with computation. The wallpaper is flat, constructed entirely from paper and paint and can be paired with our paper computing kit whose pieces serve as sensors, lamps, network interfaces, and interactive decorations.
As technology like this becomes increasingly available, some exciting possibilities could open up for designers. Unlike a thermostat that only senses temperature in one part of the house, leaving rooms unevenly heated, a wallpaper with diffused thermosensing could ensure more even (and efficient) heating and cooling. Light sensors could also help to adjust light, so that artificial lights automatically increase as sunlight wanes. Running your hands across the wall to turn on the light just feels more magical, the resultant actions wondrously inexplicable.
The best part is that the living wall is made using simple and inexpensive technologies like conductive and magnetic paint applied to regular paper. So there’s a chance that even the non-millionaires among us could be seeing these in our homes in several years’ time.
More from the high-low tech project at MIT’s Media Lab.