Emerging Technologies

Physical Painting With a Digital Airbrush

This augmented airbrush device acts both as a physical spraying device and an intelligent digital guiding tool that maintains manual and computerized control. Custom-designed hardware and numerous control algorithms support a human-computer collaborative for a physical painting effort. The system uses a pistol-style airbrush relieved of its paint-volume control knob and fashioned with a custom-made augmentation. A 6-degree-of-freedom magnetic tracker is integrated with a mechanical actuation system composed of a servo and multiple gears, a potentiometer (POT), an LED and a two-state switch. Onboard electronics drive the servo and LED, query the POT, and also include a 6-degree-of-freedom inertial measurement unit. A comprehensive driver loads a reference image to paint, register, and calibrate the tool and canvas, and control the tool’s mechanical operation. The GPU-implemented control algorithms determine if the painter is at risk of spraying in the wrong direction and location, as calculated from the information from the tool, and issue control commands to the tool at ∼100Hz. The demonstration includes live painting with the airbrush and a portfolio of artwork created with the tool.

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Roy Shilkrot
MIT Media Laboratory

Pattie Maes
MIT Media Lab

Amit Zoran
MIT Media Lab