Autonomous Pixel Displays

Seamlessly integrated displays shaped around us

Team & Collaboration

Project by the Human Experience and Design Group,

Microsoft Research, Cambridge UK

David Sweeney, Senior Designer

Anja Thieme, Post Doc Researcher

Helene Steiner, Post Doc Researcher

Richard Banks, Principal Design Manager

Nicholas Chen, Researcher

Steve Hodges, Principal Researcher and Research Manager

Videos created in collaboration with:

Buildersclub

Rhiannon Wakefield

Oksana Anilionyte

ROKA Gallery

The Autonomous Pixel Displays Research project presents a new screen architecture that removes the fragile grid topology and flat rectangular shape of contemporary digital displays. Instead, every pixel has its own sensing and signal processing capabilities built in, and acts independently of its neighbour. This new approach to addressing pixels allows for:

Potential Future Applications

As a material, Autonomous Pixel displays can disrupt the way we currently approach the design of digital screens, enabling adoption for a multitude of applications and by a variety of industries.

Transforming fashion

Without the limits of flat and rigid rectangles, Autonomous Pixel displays can be combined with other materials including textiles in the creation of configurable clothing. They invite creative and performative uses that enable new ways of expressiveness for the fashion industry, transforming the way we think about what we wear.

The following video created in collaboration with Rhiannon Wakefield and Oksana Anilionyte from the Royal College of Art illustrates our vision to create displays that shape around us and our needs and adapt to the environment around us.


Seamless, large scale architectural spaces


The seamless scaling of Autonomous Pixel displays from a single pixel to large-scale applications allows for the creation of arbitrarily shaped, interactive surface that could fill and cover architectural spaces, transforming the buildings we occupy and contributing to a more harmonious embedding of digital data within our environments.

The following video created in collaboration with buildersclub and ROCA gallery in London illustrates our vision to create displays that seamless integrate within our environment and deliver localised information.

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Recent advancements in manufacturing processes allow these displays to be built from thin, flexible components that facilitate large-scale, cost-efficient roll-to-roll production. This allows us to think of the display as a material, rather than a rigid, rectangular entity, whose physical properties can be configured in novel and exciting ways.


This video is part envisionment, part existing technology and represents the vision of Autonomous Pixel Displays. It features our first prototypes and visualizes future applications and material properties.

Enabling displays as materials
Without the constraints of strict pixel layout, Autonomous Pixel displays can be cut, folded or formed into any shape. This enables crafting processes that are more like the manipulation of physical materials such as fabric
or plastic.

Offering entirely new opportunities for the design of products and interactions, uses of Autonomous Pixel displays are by no means limited to fashion or architecture, but can span a wide range of industries and application domains including, but not limited to: interior design, healthcare and ergonomically shaped wearables, transportation, or environmental graphic design.

Redefining the architecture of displays


Conventional digital displays are constructed in a grid-based typology posing challenges for the creation of none-flat, none-rectangular displays that can be bend, seamlessly combined or scaled.

The Autonomous Pixels display architecture departs from the grid topology. Instead, the pixels are independently responsible for sensing a signal, processing that signal, and using this information to control the display. The only electrical connections to pixels are via conductive planes, which deliver power and one or two global signals shared across all pixels.

By using conductive planes, instead of dedicated grid of wires, it becomes possible to cut or shape parts of the display to support variety of nonplanar applications. It also removes the constraint for pixels to be arranged in a rectangular grid. Instead, they can have different shapes, arbitrary positions and vary in density. With the operating circuit being local to each pixel, there is no need to interface with external driving electronics. This makes the display seamlessly scalable.

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