“Smart” Office Walls

Walls. Not just any walls, but office walls. A pretty dry topic, not likely to be the first choice of subject for a scintillating conversation. The phrase “like watching paint dry” springs to mind when proffering the theme of an article to be entirely about office walls….

Your walls may not be the most exciting aspect of your office design, but they’re an unavoidable, integral part of any building. So how can we make offices and commercial properties have walls that people do actually want to talk about?

We may have found the solution – how about interactive walls?

“Smart" Office Walls

The stating point for refreshing a wall is usually it’s colour, and your first port of call is likely to be a quick paint job. How about if that new lick of paint also creates a wall that becomes interactive?

A university in the US has researched this concept and has produced a conductive paint that contains electronics components which, when applied with a simple paint roller, created a smart infrastructure that sensed human touch and detected gestures, as well as registering when appliances were used.

The research is still in it’s early stages, but the hypotheses of the capabilities of these smart walls include enabling users to place or move light switches or other controls to any point on a wall where they’re most convenient or to control presentations by gesture alone.

Needless to say, these are walls that we can get excited about. Two of the guys involved in this research, Chris Harrison and Yang Zhang, both of whom work in Carnegie Mellon University’s Human-Computer Interaction Institute (HCII) certainly think this is worth investigating further.

Chris Harrison is quoted as saying; “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.”

Naming this “Wall++”, Zhang admits that it has yet to be optimised for energy consumption but estimated these walls would use about as much power as a standard touchscreen. Knowing how much area walls take up, the costs needed to be kept low, so they have used a water-based paint containing nickel that can be applied with a paint roller.

It may be sometime before we see smart walls as standard in commercial properties, but here at last is, perhaps, a reason to revisit the dull office wall and get excited about the potential of the interactive, smart, Wall++.

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