Etch-A-Sketch Camera Is Open Source

The Etch-a-Sketch was a great toy if you were somehow born with the talent to use it. For the rest of us, it was a frustrating red brick filled with weird grey sand. [Every Flavor of Robot] has taken the irritating knob-encrusted oblong and turned it into something we can all enjoy, however, by building an Etch-a-Sketch camera!

The build is simple. It uses an ESP32 microcontroller to run the show, equipped with a camera. The camera is used to take a photo of the subject, and the image is then sent to a desktop computer. The desktop runs the image through an AI pipeline that generates a simplified version of the image, and the necessary G-Code to draw it on the Etch-A-Sketch. The toy’s knobs are operated by a pair of brushless motors which have been geared down to provide more torque.

It’s a neat project, and more details are available on GitHub. We’ve seen some other great mechanized Etch-a-Sketch builds before, too.

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Roboticizing An Etch-a-Sketch

The Etch-a-Sketch was a popular toy, but a polarizing one. You were either one of those kids that had theĀ knack, or one of the kids that didn’t. [Micah] was pretty firmly in the latter group, so decided to roboticize the Etch-a-Sketch so a computer could draw for him instead.

The build uses a pair of stepper motors attached to the Etch-a-Sketch’s knobs via 3D-printed adapters. It took [Micah] a few revisions to get the right design and the right motors for the job, but it all came together. A Raspberry Pi is charged with driving the motors to draw the desired picture.

Beyond the mechanics, [Micah] also does a great job of explaining the challenges around drawing and the drive software. Namely, the Etch-a-Sketch has a major limitation in that there’s no way to move the stylus without drawing a line. He accounts for this in his code for converting and drawing images.

The robot draws slowly but surely. The final result is incredibly impressive, and far exceeds what most of us could achieve on by hand. We’ve seen some similar builds in the past, too. Video after the break.

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Etch-a-sketch made with LEDs

RGB LED Matrix Helps Etch-a-Sketch Scratch Out A 21st Century Existence

We never did crack open our Etch-a-Sketch, but we did scrape out a window large enough to really check out the mechanism inside. [MrLangford] is bringing the Etch-a-Sketch into the 21st century while at the same time, bringing an even bigger air of mystery, at least for the normies.

Instead of scraping aluminum powder off of plastic by driving a stylus on an x-y gantry with a pair of knobs, this bad boy uses rotary encoders to move the cursor around and put down squares of colored light. The familiar movements are there — the left knob moves the cursor left and right, and the right knob moves it up and down. But this wouldn’t be a 21st century toy without newfangled features. Push the left encoder down and it cycles through eight color choices, or push the right one down to go through them backwards. We hope one of the colors is setting it back to darkness in case you screw up. And while we’re dreaming up improvements, it would be awesome to add an accelerometer so you could shake it clear like a standard Etch-a-Sketch.

Inside the requisite red enclosure with white knobs are an Arduino Nano and a 16×16 RGB LED matrix. The enclosure is four sheets of 6mm MDF glued together, and we like the use of protoboard to distribute GND and 5 V in the name of keeping the thing slim.

If you’re not much of an artist, here’s a TV-sized Etch-a-Sketch build that can draw by itself.

Building An LED Etch-A-Sketch

The Etch-A-Sketch was a toy that demanded mastery. Some grew capable of creating masterful artworks, while others struggled to do more than a jumbled mess of angry, angular lines. The inherent limitations of being able to only draw a singular, connected line are all part of the fun, of course, and [gatoninja236] recreated that in a modern, LED form.

The build uses a Raspberry Pi to run the show, with a 64×64 LED matrix hooked up to the GPIO pins serving as a display. Two encoders are used to recreate the famous Etch-A-Sketch interface, hooked up to an Arduino Nano that then communicates encoder data to the Pi over I2C, due to the limited GPIOs available. There’s also an MPU6050 accelerometer board, used to enable the intuitive shake-to-clear functionality.

The final result is a fun LED toy that, unlike a real Etch-A-Sketch, you can play in the dark. We’ve seen other sneaky hacks on the classic toy before, too – like this Samsung TV cleverly hidden in a lookalike shell. Video after the break. Continue reading “Building An LED Etch-A-Sketch”

TV Turned Automatic Etch A Sketch With Raspberry Pi

Considering one of the biggest draws of the original Etch a Sketch was how simple it was, it’s always interesting to see the incredible lengths folks will go to recreate that low-tech experience with modern hardware. A perfect example is this giant wall mounted rendition of the iconic art toy created by [Ben Bernstein]. With a Raspberry Pi and some custom electronics onboard, it can even do its own drawing while you sit back and watch.

At a high level, what we’re seeing here is a standard Samsung LCD TV with a 3D printed Etch a Sketch shell mounted on top of it. That alone would be a pretty neat project, and had [Ben] just thrown some videos of designs getting sketched out onto the display, he could have achieved a similar end result with a lot less work. But where’s the fun in that?

It took hundreds of hours to print the shell.

To make his jumbo Etch a Sketch functional, [Ben] spent more than a year developing the hardware and software necessary to read the user input from the two large 3D printed knobs mounted under the TV. The knobs are connected to stepper motors with custom PCBs mounted to their backs that hold a A4988 driver chip as well as a AS5600 absolute magnetic rotary encoder. This solution allows the Raspberry Pi to not only read the rotation of the knobs when a person is using the Etch a Sketch interactively, but spin them realistically when the software takes over and starts doing an autonomous drawing.

Several Python scripts pull all the various pieces of hardware together and produce the final user interface. The software [Ben] wrote can take an image and generate paths that the Etch a Sketch can use to realistically draw it. The points that the line is to pass through, as well as variables that control knob rotation and pointer speed, are saved into a JSON file so they can easily be loaded later. Towards the end of the Imgur gallery [Ben] has created for this project, you can see the software working its way through a few example sketches.

We’ve seen several projects that motorize an Etch a Sketch to draw complex images, but this may be the first example we’ve seen where everything was done in software. This digital version doesn’t need to follow the traditional “rules”, but we appreciate that [Ben] stuck to them anyway. Incidentally this isn’t the first Etch a Sketch TV conversion to grace these pages, though to be fair, the other project took a radically different approach.

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CNC Etch-A-Sketch: Stop Motion Is Logical Next Step

It happens to everyone. You get your hands on an Etch-A-Sketch for the first time, and armed with the knowledge of how it works, you’re sure you can draw things other than rectangles and staircases. And then you find out the awful truth: you are not as precise as you think you are, and if you’re [QuintBUILDS], the circles you try to draw look like lemons, potatoes, or microbes.

Okay, yes, this definitely isn’t the first CNC-ified Etch-A-Sketch we’ve seen, but it just might be the coolest one. It’s certainly the most kid-friendly, anyway.

Most importantly, you can still pick it up and shake it to clear the screen, a feature sorely lacking in many of the auto-sketchers we scratch about. And if you’re not fully satisfied by this hack, be sure to check out the stop-motion video after the break that turns this baby into a touch-screen video player for Flatlanders.

Turn it over and you’ll find a Raspberry Pi 3 and a CNC hat. The knobs are belt-driven from a pair of NEMA-17 size stepper motors that interface to the knobs with tight-fitting pulleys. Power comes from four 18650s, and is metered by a battery management board that provides both overcharge and drain protection. At some point in the future, [QuintBUILDS] plans to move to a battery pack, because the cell holder is electrically unstable.

We love the welded frame and acrylic enclosure because they make the thing sturdy and portable. Also, we’re suckers for see-through enclosures. They’re clearly superior if you want to do what [QuintBUILDS] did and take it to an elementary school science fair to show the kids just how cool science can be if you stick with it.

If you don’t think motorized Etch-A-Sketches can be useful, maybe you just haven’t seen this clock build yet.

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Escher: Etch-a-Sketch As A Service

For better or for worse, the tech world has fully committed to pushing as many of their products into “The Cloud” as possible. Of course, readers of Hackaday see right through the corporate buzzwords. It’s all just a fancy way of saying you have to poke some server over the Internet every time you want to use the service. In a way, [Matt Welsh] has perfectly demonstrated this concept with Escher. It’s a normal Etch-a-Sketch, but since somebody else owns it and you’ve got to have an active Internet connection to use it, that makes it an honorary citizen of the Cloud.

Escher takes the form of a 3D printed mount and replacement knobs for the classic drawing toy that allow two NEMA 17 steppers to stand in for human hands. Thanks to the clever design, [Matt] can easily pull the Etch-a-Sketch out and use it the old fashioned way, though admittedly the ergonomics of holding onto the geared knobs might take a little getting used to. But who wants to use their hands, anyway?

In terms of the electronics, the star of the show is the the Adafruit Feather HUZZAH32 development board, paired with a motor controller that can provide 12 V to the steppers. [Matt] even went through the trouble of making a custom voltage regulator PCB that steps down the stepper’s voltage to 5 V for the Feather. Totally unnecessary, just how we like it.

For the software folks in the audience, [Matt] goes into considerable detail about how he got his hardware talking to the web with Google Firebase. Even if the Internet of Sketches doesn’t quite tickle your fancy, we imagine his deep-dive on pushing G-Code files from the browser into the Feather will surely be of interest.

It probably will come as little surprise to hear this isn’t the first automatic Etch-a-Sketch that’s graced these pages over the years, but this might be the most fully realized version we’ve seen yet.