Chalkaat is an augmented reality-based laser cutter


Created at MIT’s Media Lab, Chalkaat is a direct manipulation laser cutter that’s aware of the strokes being drawn on the workpiece. 


Laser cutters are one of the more interesting tools you can have around your home (or professional) shop. Normally, you load what you want to cut or engrave into the unit, place the material to be cut inside of it, start the process, and some time later you hopefully everything has been cut correctly. As amazing as this technology is, the MIT Media Lab decided to take it one step further with their augmented-reality Chalkaat laser cutter system.

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This laser cutter setup, using a camera and a projector, allows you to put or even draw an object to be duplicated via laser in the cutting field. The object is then scanned and a representation of it is projected where it will be cut. The camera that originally scanned the image then tracks a red and blue marker, which, allow you to move and resize the now-projected object.

Once things are ready to cut, a homebrewed Arduino (ATmega328P) moves the laser into position via stepper motors, and turns it on at the needed intensity. Although code was available that could take care of some of the control details, for this project the MIT Media Lab decided to write their own firmware for the sake of learning.

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Many tend to have a bit of an aversion to making their own “DIY laser” setup, and as noted on their instructions, “Working with lasers is extremely dangerous. A 2W laser can blind you instantly even if looked indirectly. Always wear proper laser safety glasses.” This is a really cool project, but don’t try something like this unless you know what you’re doing and take the proper precautions.

Intrigued? Head over to the team’s project page here, or simply see it in action below!

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