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Special Dye Instantly Changes Images

Credit: Unsplash

An afternoon of painting contained in a single burst of light.

Everyone loves customizing their stuff to better fit their personality. I change my computer and smartphone wallpapers every few months to reflect whatever my current obsession is. However, changing something on a computer is easy, as it only takes a couple of clicks. Altering a physical object with paint or decorations can take much longer, which is why many people can’t be bothered. But what if you could completely alter something’s appearance with just a quick burst of light?


Researchers from MIT have created a new light-based system that allows them to instantly alter the appearance of small objects. The system, named “ChromoUpdate,” utilizes a UV light projector and a special light-sensitive dye. When the dye is blasted with UV light on a particularly programmed wavelength, it alters its pigmentation, creating different colors and images. For example, they took a blank smartphone case, treated it with the dye, blasted it with the light, and suddenly, it’s got an awesome image of a bird of prey on it!

This system could be used to freely customize all sorts of stuff, including (but not limited to) smartphones, cars, and coffee mugs. “You put your mug in our projector system and program it to show your daily schedule. And it updates itself directly when a new meeting comes in for that day, or it shows you the weather forecast,” explains Michael Wessley, the study’s lead author and a postdoc in MIT’s Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory.

Right now, the system only works with flat, sturdy surfaces; wavy stuff like clothes doesn’t work quite yet, but they’re working on it. Imagine being able to change the image on your shirt every single day! Though, you should still change your shirt every day because wearing the same clothes multiple days in a row is gross.

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