It’s not so much paper as it is a new kind of ceramic tile — one that’s able to change color, pattern, or even play videos with a single tap of your finger. This, Lumentile’s creators believe, will radically change the way we interact with buildings or public spaces, and perhaps take us closer to instant camouflage.
The secret behind the Lumentile, or “Luminous Electronic Tile,” lies in its use of photonics technology. The 21st-century “wallpaper” combines the simplicity of a ceramic tile with sophisticated touchscreen technology, thereby creating a light source and a new way of interacting with your surroundings. Simply tap the tile to change the aesthetic or mood of any room (or wall) in your home.
“This is the first time anyone has tried to embed electronics into ceramics or glass for a large-scale application,” the Lumentile team said. “With the ability to play videos or display images, the tiles allow the user to turn their walls into a large ‘cinema’ screen, where each unit acts as a set of pixels of the overall display.”
Lumentiles are the size of a standard, rectangular A3 piece of paper, and can be used to either completely or partially cover a surface, and can serve as much more than just decoration. For example, Lumentile can be configured to serve as smart floor panels — because of its touchscreen capabilities, it can recognize the presence of an intruder, or on the other hand, realize when an elderly user has fallen (or is no longer standing where he or she was previously).
“This is not just a digital panel to replace an animated poster like you see on the Underground network, but a whole new way of life. You are instantly in control of your own environment,” explained Lumentile project coordinator, Professor Guido Giuliani of the University of Pavia. And looking towards the future, Giuliani is excited about the possibility of helping military vehicles blend in to their surroundings.
“It may sound like the stuff of James Bond but external tiles would create a ‘chameleonic skin’, or instant camouflage. Although we are a long way off this yet, this would allow a car or building to blend completely into its surroundings, and hence ‘disappear’,” he added.
So when can we expect to see Lumentile tiles? The project is targeting 2020 for mass production, so until then, we’ll just have to make do with our old, static wallpaper and tiles.