Researchers create gesture and touch-sensitive wall

When it comes to interacting with the smart home and IoT devices, we're pretty much living in the age of the smart speaker. But imagine if the same could be accomplished by touching or making gestures on a standard wall. That's exactly what a collaboration between researchers at Carnegie Mellon University and Disney Research has accomplished. Dubbed "Wall++," it turns almost any wall into a giant touchpad.

As a prototype "smart wall" the Wall++ is capable of not only recognizing gestures like physical taps and swipes, but also track people standing nearby and locate active smart appliances. It works by placing electrodes on the wall, using conductive paint, and connecting it all to a custom sensor board.

The Wall++ essentially acts as an "electromagnetic sensor to detect and track electrical devices and appliances." It can detect gestures based on touch and hovering, allowing it to act as a giant control panel for things like turning the lights on and off or controlling music playback. It can also detect when a person is standing nearby and estimate their pose, as well as monitor the activity of running devices. Potential uses for the latter include adjusting the room's lighting when a TV is turned on or off, or sending an alert when a device completes a task.

The researchers note that Wall++ is merely a proof-of-concept, but at a cost of only around $20 per square meter it certainly has potential. It still needs work, however, including optimization for energy consumption.

SOURCE Carnegie Mellon University, Yang Zhang