Introducing Wall++: The
Wall of the Future

By Kealia Reynolds

It’s no secret that smart appliances and AI are changing the way we interact with our homes. The latest development in home tech is currently being tested to integrate touch to control light levels and appliance use within the home.

Dubbed the Wall++ by researchers at Carnegie Mellon University and Disney Research, this standard structure was transformed into a smart wall at a relatively low cost—$20 per foot—using conductive paint, painter’s tape, and a sensor board. The electrically conductive paint, applied in a cross-hatched pattern, conducts electrodes across the wall, creating a floor-to-ceiling touchpad to track users’ touch, monitor activity in rooms, automatically adjust light levels, and send alerts when an appliance goes off.

“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 in CMU’s Human-Computer Interaction Institute (HCII) and CMU alumnus.

The Wall++ can operate in two modes—capacitive sensing or electromagnetic sensing. With capacitive sensing, the wall functions like a regular touchpad. Electromagnetic sensing allows the wall to detect electromagnetic signatures of electrical or electronic devices, enabling it to identify devices and their locations.

Yang Zhang, a Ph.D. student in HCII, presented a research paper on this sensing approach at the Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems in Montreal, Canada.

Though initial testing of the prototype has proven successful, there is still work to be done. The Wall++ hasn’t been optimized for energy consumption, though Zhang estimates the wall-sized electrodes “consume as much power as a standard touch screen.”

Regardless, we’re encouraged to see progress made to recast ordinary walls as smart infrastructure and the possibility to enhance rooms with sensing and interactivity.

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