Imagine a bottle of laundry detergent that can sense when you’re running low on soap — and automatically connects to the internet to place an order for more. Researchers are making this a reality by 3-D-printing plastic objects and sensors that can collect useful data and communicate with other WiFi-connected devices entirely on their own. Examples of these objects include a battery-free slider that controls music volume, a button that automatically orders more cornflakes from Amazon and a water sensor that sends an alarm to your phone when it detects a leak. The researchers also 3-D-printed WiFi input widgets such as buttons, knobs and sliders that can be customized to communicate with other smart devices in the home and enable a rich ecosystem of “talking objects” that can seamlessly sense and interact with their surroundings.
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