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Soumac WOW blog – This spray paint can control household switches

Social distancing measures and the subsequent shift to home working has seen many of us embrace technology in ways we never once considered. But there’s one particular development that caught our eye this week, and it’s one that could truly transform households forever.

Introducing SprayableTech – a spray paint that can be applied directly onto surfaces around the house and turn them into interactive displays.

Developed by a team of researchers at MIT, the substance can be applied to everything from walls to furniture, and used to turn lights on and off, for example, or airbrushed onto the arm of a sofa to control the TV.

How it works

After designing the interactive artwork with a 3D editor, the system generates stencils for airbrushing the design onto a surface. Once this is done, a series of inks are applied – a top design layer and an underlying conductive copper ink layer that’s able to recognise touch, along with a microcontroller that connects to the ink and responds to it.

In the video below, you’ll see how the materials are applied.

You’re able to spray this unique ink onto both rough and curved surfaces (even in outdoor settings), to create sensors and displays that perform real-life tasks.

But it doesn’t just have to be touch. The ink can also respond to a swiping finger or hand (to adjust the brightness of a light for example) or even to proximity – you could wave your hand in front of a door to open it.

Expected release date

While it’s going to take some time for the technology to be scaled up and commercialised, it could one day be used as part of smart builds or smart architecture – stencilled, airbrushed designs that are able to respond to your touch.

How it’s been used

In one experiment, the team created a musical interface on a concrete pillar that lets you play tunes by touching various musical notes. They also applied a UI to the arm of a sofa, connected to the TV, allowing the user to swipe left through a series of photos on screen. On top of this, users were able to adjust the brightness of the lights in a room through a spray-painted interface on the wall.

The uses for this next-generation solution are almost limitless and we are excited to follow the progression of this technology and its application in the future.


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