Painting by numbers

MIT researcher Kimiko Ryokai and his 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.


MIT

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.