These Smart Walls Can’t Talk, But They Definitely Can See

Using layers of conductive paint in unique patterns, a research team transformed a wall into a wide-area capacitive sensor and an EM-field sensor.

We think of Interior walls for defining and dividing areas (and providing a place to hang things), but what if they could easily and cheaply be transformed into sensors? That’s what a joint project team from Carnegie Mellon Institute School of Computer Science and the Disney Research Pittsburgh has done, as detailed in a paper presented at the ACM CHI Conference on Human Factorsin Computing Systems.

Their highly readable paper, “Wall++: Room-Scale Interactive and Context-Aware Sensing” provides full details on how they used conductive paint to add a dual-function role to a standard wall, providing a mutual-capacitance sensor for close-range sensing plus an electromagnetic-field sensor for wider-area performance. The result is what they call the Wall++, which can become part of a “smart” infrastructure to sense human touch, detect gestures, and even determine when appliances are in use

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