If you could put circuits anywhere you wanted, what would you do with that? Build a toy? Turn your wall into an interactive display? Make your own battery-powered Tron costume? Turn that beat-up desk into a synthesizer? All that is possible, thanks to Bare Paint, a conductive liquid that can be applied nearly anywhere.
It’s the brainchild of a group of graduates from London’s Royal College of Art. According to Matt Johnson, one of the inventors, the original idea was to develop a unique spin on wearable tech for an art project.
Four years ago, the then-students — Johnson and fellow RCA grads Isabel Lizardi, Bibi Nelson and Becky Pilditch — noticed that people were exploring some creative approaches to wearable technology. This was pre-Google Glass, of course, and at the time, fashion designers were making clothes with circuits in them and hardcore tech extremists were even dallying with biological embeds. But the students thought there must be a better way. Perhaps something that couldn’t be taken off as easily as a sweater, but wasn’t as intrusive as surgery.
So they hit Wikipedia — that’s right, Wikipedia — and researched conductive materials. Next thing you know, Bare Paint was born.
For an idea of what this material can do, here’s a look at a collaboration with DJ and producer Calvin Harris for his song “Ready for the Weekend.” Produced shortly after the team graduated, the video, “Humanthesizer,” features the paint on Harris and a crew of ladies who act as human synthesizers.
As you can see in the vid, the paint looks like runny Marmite, but it dries fast in the open air. It can be applied almost anywhere — from plastic and metal to paper and even fabric. Skin, however, is no longer on the menu. The team wanted to expand its usage scenario, so skin painting was left behind in favor of other surface applications.
Of course, the team knows it didn’t pioneer conductive paint, but the grads may have the vision to fulfill its potential. There are broad potential applications for this hi-tech paint, and the RCA crew knows it.
“Devices no longer have to look high tech to be high tech,” Johnson says. “Our goal is to put interactivity onto objects you don’t expect.” The obvious target customer is the “maker” community — inventors, developers and creatives who can appreciate the huge potential of being able to paint a circuit anywhere they want. That makes Radio Shack and ThinkGeek ideal places to sell Bare Paint kits and pens. But the team, now a company called Bare Conductive, is also eyeing larger organizations.
Hoping to attract attention from festivals and music, TV and film studios, Bare Conductive designed several prototypes of touch-sensitive posters that trigger sounds and music. But judging by this CNN segment on the Bare Paint, we could see Bare Paint having massive potential in electrical engineering and electronics manufacturing.