Tap Your Chair, Dim the Lights

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Imagine touching your headboard to adjust the room temperature or tapping on a wooden armchair to dim the lights. Spanish technologists want to introduce such seamless, sophisticated interfaces to wooden household furniture.

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The Spanish technological research center Tecnalia created the project, called WoodTouch, with furniture companies Grumal and Nueva Linea, electronics developer Elson Electronica and the lighting company Ekoleds. Details on exactly how it would work weren't available online, but the plan is for the furniture to be connected to heating, lighting and various electrical devices.

WoodTouch "uses the warm feel of wood" to change furniture into a new intelligent control system that allows us to control all our home electrical devices in "a simple and intuitive way," according to the project description. The button-free project is still in development.

Looking back at other efforts to create smart furniture, the results are mostly coffee tables that look like giant iPads. I'm curious about what WoodTouch will produce, since there's so much surface area to play with in wooden furniture.

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There are a number of challenges I'm sure will have to be overcome to make this furniture functional and attractive to potential customers, though. Tecnalia needs to make the touch technology safe and protect the furniture from overheating. No use adding a lights controller if it means lights-out for real.

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Another hurdle could be cost. While I love the idea of turning a Poäng chair from Ikea into command central, it probably wouldn't sell for an affordable price. Plus, there's the issue of making touchscreens too seamless. Don't want to hit the headboard and accidentally turn on the AC or all the bedroom lights at the, um, wrong time.

As a more traditional girl on the style scale, giving wooden furniture more functionality has a particular draw for me. I know a bunch of people who won't care for it, though. They like their technology shiny and metallic.

Photo: The WoodTouch project aims to bring wooden furniture to life. Credit: Basque Research

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