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Kickstarting: An iPhone App To Turn Windows From Clear To Opaque

Tap an icon. Instant privacy. Magic? Nope. Just the future of DIY home upgrades.

Blinds are a clumsy technology. And generally, they can’t offer privacy to your windows without cutting out light. So when your blinds are down, you might as well not have a window at all.

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A startup named Sonte has a solution–it’s Kickstarting a networked digital film that fits over your existing home’s windows, and with the tap of an iPhone, will turn your windows from perfectly clear to semi-opaque. You know, kind of like you might see in fancy offices or bathrooms, but on the DIY, smart-home level.

The film itself is a plastic sandwich with polymer-dispersed liquid crystals in between. Powered by a nearby outlet, the film can rearrange those crystals to scatter light or leave it alone to keep the window clear. (The effect lasts for five to ten years, depending on the film’s exposure to direct sunlight.) The addition of a connected Wi-Fi transmitter allows you to control the effect with an iPhone or Android device.

But here’s where it gets interesting: While Sonte’s Kickstarter campaign is a fairly expensive preorder–$234, as described above, for a mere 3.28-by-3.28-foot swatch of the stuff–Sonte co-founder and CEO Bernard Kwan tells me that the technology is already highly customizable and infinitely expandable. You can cut the film in any shape you’d like, and stick it to any number of windows you can count. You can daisy chain several films on one signal, or control however many windows you’d like through separate channels.

When you consider that custom level of implementation, the possibilities beyond the formal app become quite interesting. What if your home could follow you around the house (through Wi-Fi triangulation or RFID) and blur only the windows of the rooms you were in? Or what if your home was smart enough to blur, say, the bathroom window automatically, as soon as you turned on the bathtub faucet or played Marvin Gaye?

“Our goal is to introduce the technology to the mass market and open their minds to the plethora of design solutions Sonte Film offers,” Kwan confirms. “We’re reaching out to developers as well as consumers.”

Because it’s these advanced developed experiences that will make Sonte’s product something more than a home automation appliance–alone, the film is just a premium set of blinds, even if blinds are a big business–but as such discrete, barely intelligent objects begin working together to shape our domestic experience, the feeling of being “at home” could shift dramatically.

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About the author

Mark Wilson is a senior writer at Fast Company who has written about design, technology, and culture for almost 15 years. His work has appeared at Gizmodo, Kotaku, PopMech, PopSci, Esquire, American Photo and Lucky Peach

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