Touch-Sensitive Paint that Switches the Lights On and Off!

20 January 2011 4,013 views 2 Comments

Remember watching the “clap on! clap off!” commercials back in the day? I always thought that the idea that you could turn out the lights by clapping was pretty fantastic.  The idea seemed so fantastic, it would cause me to clap my hands in excitement and plunge myself into darkness.  No, I’m kidding – I’ve actually never been in a situation where “clap on! clap off!” was installed, but I bet it made a lot of people’s lives better. When it’s tough to get up, it’s nice to be able to alter your environment without walking over to a light switch.

Agence Quarks and Nicolas Triboulot have been thinking along those lines, and the French designers recently developed a new way to turn lights on and off without relying on a switch.  They call their touch-sensitive paint, “ON/OFF” and the concept seems simple enough. 

Once the paint has been applied to a wall, “a simple touch detects the contact desired by the user to control an electrical appliance. This ‘switch’ is no longer positioned at an exact location only a few square centimetres in size but on the entire surface of the wall. The paint can be applied with a roller or a brush, on any background (plaster, wood, concrete, plastic, etc.) It may be covered in a coat of paint the colour you want, or wallpaper, without losing effectiveness. ON/OFF may be combined with a lamp, an alarm, roller blinds or any electrically-controlled appliances. You can add another function to the unit such as a dimmer, timer or plug” (Nusca).  The paint relies on an “electronic mechanism” that is hidden (I assume somewhere within the wall but so far I haven’t been able to find out exactly how the system works).  If anyone has a sample of this paint or knows how the electronic mechanism functions please please let me know!

Image courtesy www.smartplanet.com

I am captivated by the idea that the ON/OFF switch is “everywhere without being seen” (APCI).  You could paint a small strip, a whole wall, or an isolated area to use as a switch.  I can imagine painting the wall behind my bed, then reaching backwards to turn out the lights and go to sleep.  It could be used by elderly or disabled people who need to trigger an alarm, or to create games, and it would be helpful to be able to bump a wall with a foot to turn on the lights when one’s hands are full (Nusca). While I suspect that this idea is more conceptual than fully-baked, it seems rife with possibilities.  How would you use this paint?  Hit the comments.


I’m filing touch-sensitive paint in the Fire and Water categories.  Fire because of the elctric component and water because paint flows over surfaces.


Nusca, Andrew. “Touch Sensitive Wall Paint Turns Lights On, Off.” Smartplanet.com.  01/06/11. Accessed 01/20/11.  URL.

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  • Goedjn said:

    I suspect that it works the same way that touch-sensitive lamps do,
    by detecting changes in capacitance when you touch a conductive
    layer of paint, although if that’s the case, it surprises me that they
    think it will work reliably through a layer of another paint. It COULD be working by induction, or by detecting your electronic shadow
    in some part of the RF spectrum, but in either of those cases,
    I’d expect there to be problems with false detections due to cell
    phones and the like. Maybe that’s why they haven’t brought it to
    market, yet.

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