Bot Makes Etch A Sketch Art In One Continuous Line

Introduced in 1960 for the princely sum of $2.99 ($25.00 today), Etch A Sketch was to become a standard issue item for the Baby Boomers’ toy box. As enchanting as the toy seems, it’s hard to see why it had staying power: it was hard for young fingers to twirl the knobs, diagonal lines and smooth curves required a concert pianist’s fine motor control, and whatever drawings we managed to make were erased at the slightest jostle of the tablet.

Intent on righting these wrongs, [Sunny Balasubramanian] not only motorized an Etch A Sketch, but he’s also given it a mind of its own in a way. For those unfamiliar with the toy, it’s basically a manual X-Y plotter that drags a stylus across the underside of a glass screen, scraping off a silver powder clinging to the glass to make dark lines. Replacing the knobs with steppers is straightforward, of course, but driving them is the trick. [Sunny] hooked his up to a Raspberry Pi and wrote some Python code to drive them. The Pi also accepts input image files and processes them for rendering through the plotter, first doing Canny edge detection in OpenCV, then plotting a single path through the largest collection of connected pixels in the image. From there it’s just a matter of spinning the motors to create surprisingly detailed images. Check out the short video below to see it in action.

It’s hardly the first automatic Etch A Sketch we’ve seen – here’s one that automates everything including the shake to erase the drawing. That one cheats a little though, in that it rasters across the screen like a CRT. We really like how this one just does a single path. Pretty clever.

 

 

 

17 thoughts on “Bot Makes Etch A Sketch Art In One Continuous Line

  1. There was an article in an early issue of Byte about using an Etch-a-Sketch. I can’t remember if it was a practical article or just idea. But back then, it was seen as a potential output device, the wonders of the modern age not yet cheap. If you needed hardcopy, there was the film camera, Polaroid if you needed it instantly.

    Michael

    1. Couldnt remember if it was BYTE. Da Vinci Mona lisa on Etch a sketch on cover page. Controlled by Apple II and running Pilot i think. Was terrible until replaced slippy mechanism and added pen up-down. EtchaSketch sellimg for less than 20$ usd still.

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