Painting Your Walls Is as Easy as Changing Your Desktop Background

I’ve already talked about Katie finding and leasing a house in a matter of minutes, but there was a fun little bit at the end of the scene that I failed to mention. After she’s chosen her place of residence, with her car already speeding that direction, she calls up her favorite color scheme and applies it to interior.

That idea was based on an article I read at HowStuffWorks five or six years ago. It was called, “How Electronic Ink Will Work,” and it described E Ink (the technology behind Amazon’s Kindle display), and all the additional uses that product would eventually be put to.

Today, the article’s title has been changed to present tense, but otherwise the section on pending uses remains the same. The most significant bit (with regard to this discussion, anyway) goes like this:

Electronic ink can be printed on any surface, including walls, billboards, product labels and T-shirts. Homeowners could soon be able to instantly change their digital wallpaper by sending a signal to the electronic ink painted on their walls.

The makers of E Ink have said that once it really gets into mass production, electronic paper will be cheaper than normal paper. Imagine the benefits of using it for wall-paper, especially in an apartment complex or dorm. Every tenant could design their interior however they wanted (no restrictions on redoing the walls just because you’re renting), and as soon as they left the walls could be wiped clean with the push of a button.

You could save some favorite color schemes — maybe you’d have one for each season, or one for days you’re feeling productive and a different one for days you want to relax. You could change your home’s interior as easily and as often as you change your clothes.

And it’s not just color schemes. Every pixel of that wallspace is separately programmable. So, yeah, you could have robin’s egg walls in the kitchen and sea foam in the bathroom and mother-of-pearl down the hall. But you could also have stripes, or polka dots, or images, just as easily as the Kindle cycles through portraits of writers for its background.

So you could set aside a couple square feet of space above your fireplace to show a portrait of your great grandfather (rendered from a JPG someone scanned back in the 1990s), or you could make it a slideshow, switching out portraits every few hours from a folder full of ’em.

Or if that’s not dramatic enough, you could paint an entire wall with a sprawling landscape scene. Maybe your house’s back wall needs to look like a view on the beach in Padre. Easy enough. A child’s nursery could be made to look like the inside of a Disney princess’s castle, or like the interior of the space shuttle, or like a cage at the zoo.

And that’s all still imagery, but the race in electronic paper right now is to add video. Once that technology matures, the same trick I described for putting a virtual portrait over the fireplace could be used to turn part of your wall into a virtual television.

It wouldn’t have to be static, either. You could draw a 50″ television on the living room wall while you were watching a movie with your family, then push a button to “turn it off” when you were done and it would repaint itself to match the rest of the wall. You could take it with you, from room to room, painting the TV on any flat surface in easy eyesight — resizing it on demand to fit the space available.

None of that is here yet, but it’s not thirty years off, either. The e-book market is growing rapidly, and it’s driving development of a dozen different kinds of electronic paper. Some of that technology is already being pushed into other fields, too, and the potential applications in the home are so incredible, you know someone’s already working on it.

I’m really looking forward to it (in case you couldn’t tell). How about you?

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