Noctivagous is working on a machine for drawing, implemented on the hardware of a computer. Because it works differently than other drawing tools and has a different starting point for its development, an introduction is necessary.
We take the example of a spirograph to explain. A spirograph is a drawing machine where a grooved wheel is embedded inside another wheel to produce a precise, curved drawing. This device originated with a mathematician in the 19th century for calculating the area of curves. It was later made into a commercial product as a novelty kit. A person places the tip of a pen or pencil into one of the holes of the spirograph's inner wheel and then rotates it to make a drawing.
The result is a complex set of curves that would be impossible to draw by hand. The spirograph is a captivating instrument for this reason— with a mechanical setup, a drawing can be made that goes beyond what normal tools and ordinary ways of drawing can normally do.
The central limitation of the spirograph is that it provides no control or predictability. There is no way to know what will emerge from using it and there is also no way to take what the spirograph does and make something of artistic value. This situation applies to other types of drawing machines as well. They make interesting outcomes, but provide no practical use.
A harmonograph drawing machine (left). Example drawing (right).
The principle of a drawing machine has potential, however. If a drawing machine is devised that allows for dexterous control over its drawing outcome, the device can become a powerful tool, one that a person uses in the studio. This is what Noctivagous has done— we have built a useful machine for drawing that provides effective controls, to produce natural drawings for everyday purposes.
Our machine accomplishes this by using straight lines as its method of drawing, having the person place them consecutively, in a flow, so as to draw on the paper. The controls of the machine determine the placement of the line and when many lines are put together an entire drawing is made. Key to what makes this a useful machine setup is that the feel of using it is very much like natural drawing, to the extent that a person can forget that they are not drawing by machine.
This device could be constructed as a mechanical system, with moving parts, but instead we have digitally re-wired the computer's external hardware input to act in a physical way: the keyboard and trackpad work as the physical controls of a machine, the computer screen acts as the moving page. The mouse pointer no longer serves as a pointer for clicking, but instead serves as physical input. The keyboard and trackpad serve a mechanical role, in other words. On top of this, indicator lights that would exist on a mechanical system are also placed in the computer window. The hardware of the computer becomes re-oriented physically in order to make drawing any type of linear figure a fluid process.
The keyboard and trackpad are actually the center of what makes this setup work and they are the starting point for what it does. Other parts of the system a person expects will be available, such as importing digital images, placing text, and changing palettes quickly, are integrated as well. The computer is the ideal machine medium for the job.
Our drawing tool can draw straight lines so quickly that it permits traditional architectural drafting to take place in real-time, something unknown before. Many noted works of contemporary architecture are a trivial thing to sketch using this machine.
The process of drawing is demonstrated in the 9-second movie below.
The images shown below were machine-drawn by hand in a very rapid period of time, less than 10 minutes each. They are drawn, which means that even though they reside on a computer screen, the computer is re-wired to be act like a drawing machine. They are actually drawn images, like on paper. The computer screen is just acting as the piece of paper.
Fill shapes of various colors are also available, drawn by the same process. Tools and line styles can be switched out on the fly, making it easy to switch between artistic media.
We change the color palette to traditional pencil and paper: