Years before the first photographic print and two centuries before Google Glass, was the Camera Lucida, a clever optical device designed by Sir William Hyde Wollaston that utilized a prism to project an image onto a piece of paper so you can trace it, a method that would transform life-drawing for nearly a century. Have you ever used one or seen for sale? Likely not. Your best chance would be scouring Ebay where antique Camera Lucidas sell for upwards of $300. Enter university professors Pablo Garcia (previously) from the Art Institute of Chicago and Golan Levin from Carnegie Mellon who have teamed up to design the NeoLucida, the first portable camera lucida in nearly a century.
So what’s the point? In the age of Google Glass, Oculus Rift, and Instagram who needs to sit down and draw what’s in front of them? The duo explains via Kickstarter:
We both have a lot of students who’ve come to believe that being able to draw photo-realistically is the most important thing. We both love realistic drawing, but not necessarily the way it’s usually taught—which often ignores the tightly-intertwined relationship between drawing and imaging technologies. In particular, art students are encouraged to draw photo-realistically, in the manner of the Old Masters, but without the proper tools for doing so. So we’re producing the NeoLucida as a provocation, not as a business, to help get this discussion started. We hope the NeoLucida will prompt new questions about the relationship of art and technology—and potentially even disrupt business-as-usual in the classroom. Most importantly, we genuinely believe that using a camera lucida will profoundly change how people see, how they draw, and how they think about art.
Lastly, is there really a demand for a simple $30 drawing device based on a little prism? The Kickstarter received pledges for almost 100 of them while I wrote this post. So there’s that.
Update: It appears they’ve sold out of their initial run of 2,500 NeoLucidas with no plans to increase that number at this time.
Forget those pesky 3D printers that require software and the knowledge of 3D modeling and behold the 3Doodler, the world’s first pen that draws in three dimensions in real time. Imagine holding a pen and waving it through the air, only the line your pen creates stays frozen, suspended and permanent in 3D space. Sound like magic? Well it certainly looks like it, watch the video above to see the thing in action. The 3Doodler was designed by Boston-based company WobbleWorks who recently launched a Kickstarter campaign to sell the miraculous little devices that utilizes a special plastic which is heated and instantly cooled to form solid structures as you draw. I don’t know about you but for me this might have just won the most impulsive Kickstarter purchase in history. Check it out.
The Profilograph is a bizarre device created by Chicago artist Pablo Garcia based on a series of four books written in 1528 by German artist Albrecht Dürer that examine the geometry of the male profile through carefully documented illustrations. The device transforms a series of Dürer’s drawings into a contiguous 3D extrusion that rotates on a circular spindle causing a shadow that morphs between each profile. The machine was designed in 2008 for an exhibition at the University of Michigan. You can learn more about the Profilograph here, and if you liked this also check out Kumi Yamashita’s origami profiles. (via vimeo)
The Re: Sound Bottle is the audio equivalent of running around in a field in the summer collecting fireflies in a jar. Designed by Jun Fujiwara from Tama Art University, the bottle is simple in its usage but absurdly complex in its design which relies heavily on software to handle the recording, storing, and playback of audio tracks. To use it you simply uncork the device and if sound is present it immediately snaps into recording mode. As you record more individual sounds, an audio database is formed and tracks are automatically selected to create rhythmic tracks, essentially like a miniature robot DJ in a jar. To listen, you again uncork the top and wait for your personal soundtrack to play. Jun says he hopes the Re: Sound Bottle (still just a concept) will help people interact more directly with music by recording the audio from their daily life. The bottle won a special judge’s prize at the 2012 Mitsubishi Chemical Junior Designer Awards earlier this year. (via jason sondhi)
Get out the headphones or turn up your speakers and prepare to be impressed by archaic 19th century engineering. Relying on dozens of moving parts including gears, springs, and a bellows, this small contraption built in 1890 was designed to do one thing: perfectly mimic the random chatter of a song bird. At first I expected to hear a simple repeating pattern of tweets, but the sounds produced by the mechanism are actually quite complex and vary in pitch, tone, and even volume to create a completely realistic song. I think if you closed your eyes you might not be able to tell the difference between this and actual birdsong. It’s believed the machine was built 120 years ago in Paris by Blaise Bontems, a well-known maker of bird automata and was recently refurbished by Michael Start over at The House of Automata. Can any of you ornithologists identify the bird? If so, get in touch. (via the automata blog)
Horse in Motion, a mechanical flipbook installation by Wendy Marvel
Ascension, a mechanical flipbook installation by Wendy Marvel
View of a prototype FlipBooKit
In 2011 kinetic artists Mark Rosen and Wendy Marvel created a series of wonderful mechanical flipbooks based on the work of Eadweard Muybridge, the guy responsible for pioneering photographic studies of motion. After touring a few art galleries and making a well-received appearance at the 2012 Maker Faire the duo teamed up with manufacturing designer Steven Goldstein to create kits that mere mortals such as you and I can use to create nostalgic moving pictures of our own design. If you’re as ridiculously excited about this project as I am, head on over to Kickstarter to pledge a few bucks.
For the past few weeks artist Antonin Fourneau has been working at the Digitalarti Artlab in Paris creating what’s being called his Water Light Graffiti system. The device utilizes a giant matrix of LEDs embedded in a moisture-sensitive panel that when exposed to water causes the lights inside to instantly illuminate. The fun thing is that almost anything becomes a temporary paintbrush: a wet hand, a squirt gun, a paintbrush or even an atomizer. Water Light Graffiti was recently put on display in Poitiers, France and you can watch the video above to see it in use, and here’s a short clip (in French) of Fourneau showing how the entire thing was constructed. Many more photos here.
Have a blank white room in need of an instant color treatment? Consider this glorious rainbow sprinkler by Netherlands-based artist Edwin Deen. Using some color pigment, an electric tap, a few meters of hose and a plain garden sprinkler, Deen transformed a simple garden sprinkler into a smile-inducing artistic device. I have the sudden urge to put on a white painter’s uniform and start prancing through this thing. The rainbow sprinkler will be on display at BARRY at the W in Amsterdam starting August 30th. All images courtesy the artist. And if you like this, also check out the Robo Rainbow. (via my amp goes to 11)