Creating an ASCII portrait with a Royal Empress typewriter

Amanda Gelf, along with fellow classmates Jinyi Fu and Quingyuan Chen, recently transformed an aging Royal Empress typewriter into an interactive ASCII portrait platform dubbed “Clack-Clack FACE” for the ITP Winter Show.

As Engadget’s Terrence O’Brien reports, the trio wired up each of the keys to an Atmel-based Arduino board for tracking what a user types – pairing them with a tiny projector that displays the letters on a sheet of paper wrapped around the platen.

“The ‘face’ part of the equation comes from the webcam mounted to the top of the typewriter case. It uses brightness to map a silhouette of the person sitting in front of it and fills only the darkened areas with letters, creating an ASCII portrait in real time,” O’Brien explained.

“The code also automatically loops the letters you type, so even if you press only a single key the picture will appear. When you’re done, you can press the re-labeled print key and a laser printer spits out your portrait.”

According to Wikipedia, the Empress was manufactured by the Royal Typewriter Company way back in 1962, when it was described as a “large, futuristic office typewriter.” The Royal Typewriter Company was originally founded in January 1904 in a machine shop in Brooklyn, New York by Edward B. Hess and Lewis C. Myers.

1 thought on “Creating an ASCII portrait with a Royal Empress typewriter

  1. Pingback: Turning a 1930s typewriter into a social networking device | Bits & Pieces from the Embedded Design World

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