What if instead of having to push a button, an object in your home knows when to reorder itself?

University of Washington researchers said they’ve created technology to make that idea happen, through the use of sensors and 3D-printed materials.

“The dash button is great. It’s right there and whenever you need something you can press a button, but what if you didn’t need to press that button at all,” asked Vikram Iyer, a doctoral student who was co-lead author on the project.

“You may not know when the thing is empty,” added Justin Chan, the other co-lead other. “You may want your smartphone to know when it’s 10 percent left, and then order refills at that point.”

The two use the example of laundry detergent. As the liquid passes through the nozzle, it would spin 3D-printed gears that would transmit WiFi communication through backscatter techniques, which reflect radio waves to send messages.

Iyer said the technology is not powered by batteries or electricity, but only by the liquid or wind that might pass through.

“Then we could have all these objects around us that are suddenly smart devices that can track how much liquid is in them, for example,” said Iyer.

Iyer and Chan said they got the idea from wrist watches that are powered by wearer’s movement.

“It’s pretty remarkable,” Chan continued. “Your wrist doesn’t move much every day, but it turns out this watch is able to harvest the energy over time and actually run your watch.”

The pair has open-source their designs so the public can 3D print the pieces and building on the team’s work.