researcher Kimiko Ryokai and colleagues have developed a new drawing tool that allows children to explore colours and textures found in everyday materials by “picking them up” and drawing with them.
The ‘I/O Brush’, as the tool is called, looks like a regular physical paintbrush but has a small video camera with lights and touch sensors embedded inside.
Outside the drawing canvas, the brush can pick up colour and texture from a brushed surface. On the canvas, artists can then draw with the special “ink” they just picked up from their immediate environment.
In the current prototype, the brush houses a small CCD video camera in its tip with a ring of white LEDs around it. Force sensors are also embedded inside of the brush – when the brush touches a surface, the lights around the camera briefly turn on to provide light for the camera. During that time, a system grabs the frames from the camera and stores them on a computer.
To paint, the artist moves the brush around a large touch screen with a back projection system and a computer projects the ink that the brush recorded on the screen.
There are many paint/drawing programs on the market today that are designed especially for children. But they usually end up playing only with the “preprogrammed” digital palette the software provides. The idea behind I/O Brush is to let them build their own ink. They can take any colours or textures they want to experiment with from their own environment and then paint with it.