Can’t draw? This machine will show you how

Have you always wished you had some sort of artistic abilities? Well, thanks to one Maker, a tiny machine can help. 

Da Vinci, van Gogh, Rembrandt, Monet, Picasso. Those are just some of the names responsible for pioneering art as we have to come to know and love. Fast forward several years, the Maker Movement is ushering in a new era of visionaries who aspire to revolutionize the scene in a similar fashion by granting the everyday Joe (or Jane) the ability to create their own masterpieces. Doing that just, Copenhagen Institute of Interaction Design student Saurabh Datta recently developed a wearable robotic device that can teach you how to draw.


Aptly named Teacherthe exoskeleton-like gadget gently forces your arm into the repetitive motions required for sketching simple shapes using force feedback and haptic response systems. Once strapped to the hand, the wearable directs a user’s wrist and fingers to the necessary positions, while the machine itself records the movement. It then repeats the motion and forces the hand to go to those previous positions, thereby creating a device rhythm.

Before focusing his efforts toward the drawing experience, Datta explored the use feedback mechanisms as a way to give piano lessons. While the first contraption controlled a single finger, the second took care of controlling the learner’s wrist — thus capable of modulating the hand movement over the whole keyboard.


“The whole notion is to understand when machines start knowing more about you and they start showing that to you as feedback — sometimes which may appear against our will, how do you act upon it. On one hand it can act as a teacher and on the other it might appear as machines are operating us,” Datta writes.


In order to bring this creation to life, the Maker salvaged 3D printer components and reused their encoders along with (what appears to be) an Arduino and a few EMG nodes. So far, there have been three iterations of Teacher prototypes, each of which demonstrate the potential of machine-led instruction. For Datta, however, the ideal scenario would incorporate both learning and teaching from robotics.

For initial purposes, Datta had employed an Arduino Yún (ATmega32U4), which was later shrunken down to an Arduino Pro Mini (ATmega328) for the final, more compact prototype.


“We can be better in designing an enabling system rather than just service robots, systems that allow us to do things ourselves better or making us better in certain things rather than doing it for us all the time.”

As to what inspired Datta to pursue this idea, the Maker shares, “I remember when I started first learning alphabets my teachers used to hold my hand with the pen and trace on the paper multiple times, the letters. After letting me go I would do it over and over again and finally it achieved a muscle memory and I could do it by myself. I’m taking this metaphor of the importance of holding hands when learning a new skill.”

Intrigued? Those wishing to learn more can watch Data’s entire thesis below, as well as access technical details on its official project page here.


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