Home What happens when you connect AI and cameras to an Etch-a-Sketch? These robot-builders found out

What happens when you connect AI and cameras to an Etch-a-Sketch? These robot-builders found out

When you come across one of those internet moments that makes you smile it is a magical feeling and that’s what happened when we discovered this amazing project on the Every Flavor of Robot YouTube channel – a channel that has been around for less than a year.

These self-confessed nerds decided they wanted to exhibit something at this year’s Open Sauce conference to be held in San Francisco in the middle of June, but at the time they realized they only had two weeks to come up with an idea to be accepted.

They had been messing around with an old Etch-a-Sketch, trying to draw a perfect circle by hand when the idea game to them to build a robot to control the retro toy and, using motors, get it to draw cool-looking pictures.

The idea then advanced to adding a camera that would take a picture, use AI to convert the picture to G-Code (the same sort of code as a 3D printer uses), and then send the code to the motors which would then turn the wheels of the Etch-a-Sketch and recreate the picture life in a matter of seconds.

We’re not even going to say, ‘sounds simple enough’ because it doesn’t, but the boys started out with prototyping solidly for two weeks, firstly trying to get the toy to draw a simple square, breaking one in the process before moving on to a gear and belt-drive system to try not to stress the device too much.

Adding in the camera to take pictures and then create Etch-A-Sketch art was one of the last things they did and after many code iterations and tweaks, they finally realized they had something that worked.

The video above shows the entire journey and is well worth half an hour of your time. Towards the end, we can see just how good the code and device has gotten at drawing with the Etch-a-Sketch and we look forward to seeing what happens when they take it to Open Sauce in a few weeks time.

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Paul McNally
Gaming Editor

Paul McNally has been around consoles and computers since his parents bought him a Mattel Intellivision in 1980. He has been a prominent games journalist since the 1990s, spending over a decade as editor of popular print-based video games and computer magazines, including a market-leading PlayStation title published by IDG Media. Having spent time as Head of Communications at a professional sports club and working for high-profile charities such as the National Literacy Trust, he returned as Managing Editor in charge of large US-based technology websites in 2020. Paul has written high-end gaming content for GamePro, Official Australian PlayStation Magazine,…

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