Magician Brad Henderson from Austin Texas recently spotted this soon-to-be released toy automaton. The SketRobo is a small robot capable of drawing with pen and paper. OK...so we've seen automata that have been doing this for hundreds of years. What makes the SketRobo different is that it can change what it draws based on what it can see at any given moment.
One model draws images stored in memory. Another model has an on-board camera and facial recognition technology allowing it to draw portraits on the spot. Now that is a new twist on this old theme! The SketRobo should be available in the fall of 2012 -- retailing for around $60 for the no-camera version and about $100 for the one with the camera. It's being marketed as a way to teach kids how to draw, but I think we will see it put to many creative uses.
It is a remarkable coincidence that a drawing automaton product should follow so closely behind the release of the film Hugo, which featured just such a machine. It seems we are as fascinated today by the idea of a drawing machine as they were 200 years ago when audiences first saw Maillardet's drawing automaton. I wonder what he would have thought about the facial recognition technology?