It wasn’t that long ago that the world saw the invention of the first touchscreen mobile telephone. While the first touchscreen was used as early as the 1960s, highly advanced phone touchscreens hit the market in 2007 – and since then we can barely imagine a world without touchscreen devices like TVs, gaming consoles, computers and even desks.
Touchscreen technology seems set to progress even further with the design of a new wall concept that reacts to human contact. Dubbed the “smart concrete wall”, the design includes sensors that react when touched and is the brainchild of NOWlab, the innovation branch of 3D-printing company BigRep.
“This functionalisation of a concrete surface is the first of its kind, opening the possibility for any imaginable concrete surface to become a switch,” says NOWlab co-founder Jörg Petri, who spearheads the project.
The smart concrete wall is two metres tall and one meter in width, its depth ranging from 10-30cm. Perforating the wall is a series of hexagonal holes resembling honeycomb – all of which was produced using 3D-printed formwork.
The true marvel of the design, however, is the three LED lights that are activated when the wall is touched and are inserted in the holes in a triangle pattern. Capacitive sensors within the wall activate the LED lights; this type of sensor works by detecting nearby objects as they impact the electrical field of the sensor.
3D-printed formwork enables resolution that is unmatched by the mere 3D-printing of concrete, Petri argues. In an online video, Designboom shows that the smart concrete wall is envisioned as a longer wall or wall divider. In the future, other devices might also be switched on or off using the sensor technology of the smart concrete wall.
The invention of a concrete wall that reacts when touched marks a step in the growth of technology that began as a means of electronic communication. The smart concrete wall is a thrilling prospect by which other industries – including architecture – might benefit as well.