Blinds seem downright medieval when you can dim your windows with an app

View Dynamic Glass mem 2
A Californian company is closing the door on ordinary windows, with new smartglass that can track the position of the sun and automatically dim itself to block out the glare and heat – all controlled by your smartphone, of course.

In an era when smart smoke detectors can tell burnt toast from fire and smart thermostats know you’re not home, it only made sense for your windows to undergo an upgrade too.

“Everyone is focused on energy efficient appliances, but no one looked at the windows,” said Rao Mulpuri, CEO of View Dynamic Glass. “We make windows into energy-efficient appliances too. And we eliminate the need for blinds and curtains.”

A digital glass-and-curtain hybrid, it lets in the light but deflects the sun’s infrared radiation.

Every company executive knows the summer curse of a sunlit office on the 30th floor of a glass skyscraper glistening against the blue sky. The only option is cranking up the energy-guzzling air conditioner, which cools the space somewhat but often freezes offices on the building’s shady side, sometimes to the point that other employees turn on heaters. Now all they have to do is to tap an app.

View Dynamic Glass recently launched a new generation of its double-pane window glass, which dims on demand to any of four different levels. Office occupants can pre-program their preferences into the building management system or adjust from their mobile devices. A digital glass-and-curtain hybrid, it lets in the light but deflects the sun’s infrared radiation – you might better know it as heat.

Smart glass owes its existence to a smart idea: electrochromic materials that change color when they absorb or release electrons, says Mulpuri, who has a Ph.D. in material engineering and 25 years of experience in the field. To get the effect, the glass is painted with layers of electrochromic materials and semiconductors, Mulpuri told Digital Trends. When an electric charge is applied, ions—positively charged particles—travel across the coating, grabbing or releasing electrons from the atoms. “When ions move in one direction, the glass becomes more tinted, when they move in another direction the glass becomes clearer,” Mulpuri says.

Making glass smarter takes work. Panes have to go through a plasma chamber where they are heated to 700 degrees centigrade, and the layers are painted using a vapor-deposition method—a  technique in which materials are sputtered onto a surface at high temperatures, forming a very thin film.  “Our paint is one micrometer thin,” says Mulpuri. “That’s fifty times thinner than a human hair.”

This technology is different from most competitors, Mulpuri said — other products make the glass opaque while still letting in the heat, which is a critical component to green buildings.  By cutting the heat, View Glass can reduce annual HVAC (heating, ventilating and air conditioning) costs by 20 percent without obscuring the view and eliminating the need for mechanical blinds. And it’s fully dynamic because it can be programmed to automatically adjust its dimness to the amount of sunshine that buildings get during different times of day or year. “We call it a smart glass because you can program it to track the sun, to dim to a certain level, all based on changing conditions,” Mulpuri said.

“Our paint is one micrometer thin — fifty times thinner than a human hair.”

Cutting the heat as well as light was crucial for Ted van der Linder, sustainability director for San Francisco’s DPR Construction. His company was looking for a particular new office space, one that would generate as much energy as it consumed.

“When the sun’s out in San Francisco, which is very frequently where we are, it creates too much heat in the building,” he said. The company decided on a stylish 1935 building with large skylights on the second floor. Skylights are a problem, however; they let in a lot of sun glare and heat. “The space was very, very hot. If we couldn’t solve the problem, we wouldn’t take the building.”

When installed, each smart pane is wired to a controller that sends an electrical current through the glass. Dimming settings can be preprogrammed or users can customize them from their app.  Different panes can dim to different levels and at different times—essentially to the occupants’ whim. “We are very happy with controllability,” says Van der Linder. “There’s no other product like this on the market.” View Glass has done about 100 installs in North America, including NASA’s Sustainability Base building and several hospitals that prefer large glass walls; pleasant views improve patients’ wellbeing, after all.

“One way to control the glass is with a photo cell on the roof,” said Daniel R. Pickett, partner at Moody Nolan, an architectural design firm in Columbus, which recently completely two View Glass installs—a 3,080 square feet skylight for Connor Group in Dayton, Ohio, and a series of glass walls totaling 37,000 square feet in Monroe, Louisiana, for CenturyLink. “In the early morning when the sun is coming up, the glass façade would be blasted with sunlight, so you may want to have more tint,” says Pickett. “As sun gets higher, after 10-11 a.m. and as it travels across the sky, the windows will lighten up.”

Is there a catch?  Nothing smart is cheap. Glass is no exception. “There’s a premium cost associated with this technology,” Pickett told Digital Trends, but as the energy savings become apparent, he sees the demand for View Glass increasing. Van der Linder hopes that his office will become first net zero-certified building in San Francisco once the required 12-month period is over. “Once the savings are documented, the owners will be able to justify the increased cost,” says Pickett, adding that once manufacturing techniques are improved, the cost will come down too. That may bring View Glass to apartment buildings and homes.

And then one day, instead of pulling at curtains, we’ll all dim our bedroom windows without ever getting out of bed — just like clicking through channels on our smart TVs.


Exclusive: The Surface Hub 2S will revolutionize work. Here’s how it was made

Exclusive interviews with the designers, futurists, and visionaries behind the Surface Hub 2 paint a dramatic picture of how Microsoft thinks collaboration will change your office.
Movies & TV

The best shows on Netflix right now (April 2019)

Looking for a new show to binge? Lucky for you, we've curated a list of the best shows on Netflix, whether you're a fan of outlandish anime, dramatic period pieces, or shows that leave you questioning what lies beyond.

Keep your huge phone beautiful with the best iPhone XS Max cases

Apple's iPhone XS Max might be the best large phone the company has ever released. But a bigger OLED display and body means there's more glass to crack. Keep your massive phone safe with the best iPhone XS Max cases.
Product Review

You won't buy Microsoft's Surface Hub 2S, but it could still change your life

The Microsoft Surface Hub 2S wants to change the way you collaborate at work. That’s a lofty goal most devices fail to achieve, but the unique Hub 2S could be an exception. And trust us – you’re going to want it.
Smart Home

SMEG debuts colorful dual-fuel Portofino 48-inch ranges for no-compromise cooks

When SMEG launches new kitchen appliances, you can count on retro-classic design, gorgeous high-end finishes, envy-inducing functional wizardry, and lofty prices. This week SMEG launched its Portofino Dual-Fuel 48-inch Pro-Style Range.

Walmart offers big price cuts on air fryers from La Gourmet and Farberware

Walmart made deep price cuts on air fryers from La Gourmet, Farberware, and others. Air frying is faster, healthier, and easier to clean than traditional deep frying. You also can use most air fryers for baking, roasting, and grilling.
Product Review

4K in home security is finally here, thanks to Arlo’s Ultra UHD smart cam

The 4K home security camera is finally here! Class-leading image clarity and a super-wide field of vision makes Arlo Ultra an early contender for the year’s best smart cam. While there are definite quirks to the device, the device…

Amazon drops a killer Instant Pot deal, with prices under $60

Instant Pots are the popular kitchen device known for making cooking easier and faster. Thinking of finally getting yourself one? Amazon dropped the price of the Instant Pot Duo Mini. Prepare delicious meals this Easter Sunday with this…
Smart Home

I have seen the future, and it’s full of salad-making robots

Think that robots bussing tables, tossing salads and baking bread is a futuristic concept? It's actually not as far away as you might think. Robots took center stage at a food robotics summit in San Francisco this week, where they showed…
Smart Home

Ecobee leverages humor in a heated discussion with climate change skeptics

Ecobee cranked up the heat on climate change doubters. In observance of Earth Day, Ecobee and ad agency DCX released video of a social experiment that tested the effectiveness of humor in easing tension during discussions with skeptics.
Smart Home

Miele stuns with wireless probe, self-descaling java pot, and other new products

Miele rocked KBIS 2019 with waves of new appliances and features. The annual Kitchen and Bathroom Industry Show is all about product launches and Miele's appliance reveal was like New York Fashion Week with a single designer.

Shark, Ecovacs, and Roomba robot vacuums get price cuts for spring

The weather's getting nice again, and we're all emerging from our winter-long hibernation. So it's time once again to also start on that spring cleaning you've been putting off. But who really wants to clean when you'd rather be outside? We…
Smart Home

Echo Plus (1st-gen) vs. Echo Plus (2nd-gen): How exactly do they compare?

Which Echo Plus should you buy? This guide compares the first-generation Echo Plus its latest successor, allowing you to get a better idea regarding the ins and outs of each device.
Smart Home

Making hard-boiled eggs isn’t hard — here’s how to do it perfectly every time

With the help of science or some kitchen gadgets, making hard-boiled eggs can be a little easier. It may not be the hardest task in the world, but a few of these methods are foolproof.