5 Question: Stephen Lewis

Stephen Lewis, who lives in Beacon, is a computer scientist and inventor. He holds two patents for GlassMouse, a device that enables users to interact with a storefront window display by moving their hand.

Stephen Lewis

Stephen Lewis

Were you the type of kid who built your own radio and launched homemade rockets?
I took a lot of things apart. Once, I decided it would be a good idea to shoot a stream of hose water onto a lump of raw sodium. It exploded in a ball of fire, showering lye in all directions.

What careers led you to become an inventor?
I’ve had too many careers to remember! I have a bachelor’s degree from Harvard and a master’s degree in architecture from Columbia. I’ve produced Sesame Street short films, been a professional photographer, architect, teacher. I’ve designed software and hardware and toys. My favorite invention was AniMagic — the user doodles a figure, which comes to life as an animation. It’s licensed to Mattel; in the contract, they reserved the right to use the software “throughout the universe.” The big one that got away was my invention of the touchpad in the 1980s. I filed a patent, but it never got through at the patent office. Getting the patents for GlassMouse took me three years. I have others from previous inventions, but it’s a battle. There are about 10 million patents.

What inspired the GlassMouse?
Interactivity has invaded our lives, for better or worse. Our TVs, computers, phones, watches, even our heating systems and air conditioners, all want to talk to us, entertain us, engage with us. So, I thought, why are store windows still mute and unresponsive? GlassMouse creates a display that beckons you. You wave your hand to interact. In the age of COVID, it’s a safe way to control interactive experiences in a window or at a mall or kiosk. 

Have you done field tests?
I’m using Beacon and Cold Spring to get feedback. In Beacon it’s installed at Darryl’s, the Welcome Center, Bannerman Island Gallery and Daniel Aubry Realty. In Cold Spring it’s installed at The Current. People can also experience it with a webcam at glassmouse.com. My company, Architectonics, is a startup.

What’s the larger goal?
I want to engage a number of storefronts in a strip, to see what the collective effect would be. The vision is to create a “ribbon of information” on both Main Streets, as part of a larger experiment in the future of digital towns and cities. 

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