Durrell Bishop and Robert Poll are no strangers to AI and robotics—their combined experience includes over 50 years in product design, interaction design, design education, photography and technology. Meet Line-us, the duo's beautifully quirky creation:
The initial idea for the "little robot drawing arm," emerged during a chance meeting between Bishop and London based kinetic artist, Tim Lewis. Bishop became inspired by Lewis' mechanical sketch-producing artworks to make a simple, Internet connected electronic drawing machine.
At the time, Poll was looking into Internet connected micro controllers that had just come onto the market. Bishop and Poll got to talking about merging the two technologies with simple low-cost components and quickly realized the full potential of their idea. Within just a few months, the design duo was already on their way to setting up their Line-us Kickstarter campaign.
It even does watercolor!
You may not think of robots or sketching as community based, but through Line-us' open source design, Bishop and Poll aim to change that notion. Line-us is designed for anyone to use, from designers and sketching enthusiasts to students and kids. The robot arm's design allows users to experiment with basic functions like simply drawing with it, but it also allows for experimentation. There's potential for illustrators to live draw using multiple Line-us devices and for even hooking Line-us up to AI devices like the Amazon Echo. Line-us' retail price of around £99 is also quite accessible considering its wide range of functions.
The device's accompanying app allows users to share drawings and subscribe to other users' drawings, but Line-us is unique in that it doesn't rely on the app to function—you can easily control the lil' guy manually with just a few knobs.
One of the most interesting aspects of Line-us' concept is its process. Instead of drawing by hand on a digital interface and having that drawing simply live in the computer like most modern sketch aids, Line-us kicks your drawing back out into the physical realm:
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Line-us is fun to play with and watch in action, but the robotic arm does raise an interesting question: If an illustrator is using Line-us, is the sketch they produce an original, a reproduction or something in between? We'll leave that one up for debate.
The designers admit to the open nature of Line-us' potential, but agree that this is what makes the robot so exciting. Through the use of Kickstarter, Bishop and Poll hope to reach a creative audience that is ready, able and willing to experiment with Line-us' endless functions:
"We have lots of ideas [for various uses] and have experimented with things ourselves, but honestly, we don't know, and we're really excited to find out [what Line-us can do]. That's why we're going to Kickstarter—to find creative, interested people that can see what the machine can do." —Robert Poll
And it's working—after only two hours, they've raised almost $13,000 out of their $49,035 goal.
Designers, you've been challenged: Head to Line-us' Kickstarter campaign to learn more and to see what you can do with the lil' guy.