3D whiteboard without the whiteboard

This one is so simple, and works so well, we’d call it a hoax if April 1st hadn’t already passed us by. But we’re confident that what [William Myers] and [Guo Jie Chin] came up with exists, and we want one of our own. The project is a method of drawing in 3 dimensions using ultrasonic sensors.

They call it 3D Paint, and that’s fitting since the software interface is much like the original MS Paint. It can show you the movements of the stylus in three axes, but it can also assemble an anaglyph — the kind of 3D that uses those red and blue filter glasses — so that the artists can see the 3D rendering as it is being drawn.

The hardware depends on a trio of sensors and a stylus that are all controlled by an ATmega644. That’s it for hardware (to be fair, there are a few trivial amplifier circuits too), making this an incredibly affordable setup. The real work, and the reason the input is so smooth and accurate, comes in the MATLAB code which does the trilateration. If you like to get elbow deep in the math the article linked above has plenty to interest you. If you’re more of a visual learner just skip down after the break for the demo video.

[Thanks Bruce]

Comments

  1. plfx says:

    This is really cool, of course, but it would be even better if it used emf rather than ultrasound. That might even be easier to build.

  2. Richie says:

    I wonder if this could be done with the wiimote and IR LEDs?

    • Drake says:

      I think it has been done but if not then this is how.

      The wiimote could be used as the stylis or as the reciever.

      If its the stylis then use the “sensor bar”.

      Otherwise you would need a pen with at least 2 led’s with a considerable distance between them to allow the wii-mote to differentiate between the two points. Better yet use 3 led’s arranged as an isosceles triangle so you can differentiate rotation as well.

      Distance is calculated via measuring the distance between the points.

  3. thatcherc says:

    I bet you could do it like a theremin-type thing. Three axes, and instead of modulating a frequency, it could produce a frequency to be read by a microcontroller.

  4. T.M. says:

    This is exactly how the Nintendo Powerglove worked.

  5. xxz3r0x says:

    This would be pretty fun with my 3D laptop. Or even better with a 3d projector and some friends. 3D Pictionary anyone?
    But like Drake described, isn’t this pretty similar to Johnny Chung Lee’s wii mods?

  6. zuul says:

    pretty awesome

  7. ymo says:

    awesome !!

    Can someone tell me if this will still work if there is obstruction between the pen and the receiver ? say if there is glass or wood separating the pen from the receiver.

  8. Jarel says:

    Why would this be fake, even if it was April Fools Day? It seems like a reasonable idea even without the video.

  9. rue_mohr says:

    ok THATS what I’m gonna make with the powerglove. But I’d like to add the powerglove has two sensors on the glove itself that I beleive also detect rotation.

  10. rue_mohr says:

    hey wait, this would be extra cool if you took it half a step farther towards what nintendo did and put the 3 sensors infront of a monitor…
    can linux handle a 3d mouse yet?
    if it a mouse if its 3d or is it then a wand?
    I want two wands, so I can use it for scaling and rotation….
    where did I put those ultrasonic remote filter schematics….

  11. Whatnot says:

    If I see this right you have to also keep the pen directed straight else the signal will be lopsided and the position is lost, so that’s not that good.

    There are many projects that do 3D positioning and I personally think this is not the best way to do it, but it’s still a nice project to learn from though.

  12. svofski says:

    Don’t motion trackers for airplane games do exactly the same?

  13. R3L1C says:

    how about 3 mics with 3 speakers … with 3 frequencies … and do the simple triangulation ?

  14. bob the builder says:

    i would be very carefull about comercialising this,

    this has all ready been done, i have at home(brought fom a boot sale(junk sale)) a pegasus (israely company) now long defunct, that made a 3d mouse called the “OWL”, this was a windows 95/3.1 (driver disk included) that had a ring powered by button cells that had a ultrasonic transmitter, the reciever consisted of a right angle arm (L shaped)that you attached to the monitor, this had 3 ultra sonic recievers at the 3 junctions of the L.
    my guess is that who ever brought the company still holds patents (at least in the u.k. where i brought the item)

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