This talk summarizes soon-to-be-completed dissertation research at the Media Laboratory at MIT.

For the last 20 months Ive been looking at a problem which has been bothering me for the last 12 years "What happens when process technology takes us to the point where the computing migrates off the precision engineered mother boards and onto common surfaces? (furniture, construction material, cloth,)".

When this happens, either the surfaces are going to become complex or the computing is going to become transparent -- and I'm opting for the transparency. For example, computing is embedded in a piece of wood, you should still be able to cut it, shape it, and drives nails into it, without worrying about the placement of the unseen computing elements. You should be able to forget that it can compute at all, until you need computation -- a lot of it.

As an extreme embodiment, we considered the notion of a paintable computer, an instance of a pinless IC with an on board micro 50 K of memory and a wireless transceiver, all shrunk down to the size of a large sand kernel, powered parasitically, replicated by the thousands, suspended into a viscous medium like paint, and deposited it on surfaces.

My years in the IC industry left me believing that the hardware is in sight, if not yet in reach. But there is nothing like a programming model anywhere on the radar. Hence, my work has focused on the programming model.