A team of researchers from Carnegie Mellon University (CMU) in Pittsburgh and Los Angeles–based Disney Research have developed a method that can transform walls into smart surfaces. Using conductive paint and an electromagnetic sensor, users will be able to adjust room brightness or track use of electric appliances according to CMU.

“Walls are usually the largest surface area in a room, yet we don’t make much use of them other than to separate spaces, and perhaps hold up pictures and shelves,” said Chris Harrison, assistant professor of the CMU Human-Computer Interaction Institute in a press release. “As the Internet of Things and ubiquitous computing become reality, it is tempting to think that walls can become active parts of our living and work environments.”

As part of the research, the team used painter’s tape to create a cross-hatched pattern on a wall surface—an efficient method to create electrode patterns, according to the press release. Using a roller, the researchers then applied two coats of a conductive, water-based paint that contained nickel. The team then removed the tape, connected the electrodes, and applied a final coat of standard latex paint.