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Anyone can turn a wall into a touchscreen with this easy, DIY kit

Bare Conductive’s latest product makes it easy to transform walls into interactive sound and projection mapping panels.

At first glance, it looks like just another mural that would look right at home in a WeWork. There are cutesy graphics depicting microphones, thermometers, and cars surrounding interlocking letters that read “Interactivity Everywhere.” But this is no ordinary mural: If you put your hand on the cartoon-like raincloud, you hear the sound of rain, while if you touch the basketball, you hear the sound of it bouncing.

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This mural, created by the hand-lettering artist Ian Barnard, uses a kit designed by the London-based company Bare Conductive that enables even the non-technically savvy to turn any wall into an interactive surface.

[Photo: courtesy Bare Conductive]

Bare Conductive made its name back in 2015 by creating conductive paint, which complements this new Interactive Wall kit. The kit includes a motherboard, 12 sensors, and 12 16-foot cables that you use to hard-wire each sensor to the little computer. The sensors use a technology called capacitive sensing–the same tech that your phone uses to detect your fingertips–to sense when someone has touched the paint connected to one of the sensors. Then, designers can program the sensors to do things like emit sound or play images on the wall’s surface via an external projector when someone touches a particular detail.

Chief commercial officer Isabel Lizardi was inspired to create a durable and easy to use interactive wall kit because Bare Conductive’s creative community was already using the company’s products that had been designed for prototyping and home use to create professional immersive installations for exhibitions, brand activations, and retail spaces. For instance, brand design agency Dalziel and Pow used Bare Conductive’s products to create a complex interactive wall with 48 interactions connected to 100 different projection-mapped animations for the Retail Design Expo in 2015. But the agency used kits that require knowledge of soldering, electronics, and programming to create the interactive wall; Lizardi says that this meant interactive walls were limited to “agencies with a lot of design and technical know-how.”

Now, while this interactive wall kit has similar components to Bare Conductive’s other kits, it has been designed specifically so that anyone can use it to create long-lasting, professional-looking interactive walls. Lizardi consulted the company’s community and ensured the kit would meet their needs. For instance, the kit is mostly designed to work for plywood or fake walls that are up to 32 feet long, because most of the creatives that use Bare Conductive’s products are working in spaces that they don’t own, and they can’t drill through someone else’s wall to create their installation.

Next up? Lizardi says that it still requires a lot of technical expertise to connect the interactive wall kit to the internet so you could do things like tell someone the weather outside when they touch an image of a raincloud or control objects in a room remotely by touching different parts of the wall. But she hopes to make that programming more accessible to more designers in the future through more user-friendly kits like this one.

Bare Conductive launched the kit, which costs $548, a few weeks ago. It’s already sold out, but you can backorder the product on their website.

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About the author

Katharine Schwab is an associate editor based in New York who covers technology, design, and culture. Email her at kschwab@fastcompany.com and follow her on Twitter @kschwabable

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