What if robots could draw? Not only draw, but draw well, and give robot programmers the control to lift and place the pen while drawing. Imagine the possibilities! And, if it were affordable, everyone could do this at home, and every teacher could bring this capability into their school. This was the challenge we took on, more than two years ago.
Today, I am proud to introduce Sketch Kit for Dash and Cue robots, the add-on that gives users the ability to draw by programming robots — and draw with accuracy and control. You can purchase Sketch Kit on makewonder.com today for $39.99.
Sketch Kit puts the “A” in STEAM literally in front of your eyes, giving wings to children’s creativity and challenging them do more with math, robotics, and programming.
Sketch Kit is our first accessory for the robots since we introduced the Launcher in 2015. Over the last three years, we’ve experimented with various ideas for robot accessories. With every accessory, we’ve challenged ourselves to create a unique experience that furthers interaction with our robots. When we announced our Dash robot to the world, we showcased the Xylophone accessory. In order to create this accessory and enable the robot to play it accurately, we had to design the robot with additional capabilities — in particular, being able to move the head accurately and detect the angle it’s facing at any time.
In 2015, we created the Launcher, which not only used Dash’s head to launch balls but also allowed the robot to carry extra balls with which to load the launcher. As a result, we got extended play with programming. Soon after, our teacher community invented Dash-ketball.
We’ve been inspired by the contraptions children have created to attach markers to the robots for drawing with markers, pens, and crayons.
We learned from both teachers and students that while designing and creating the drawing contraptions was fun, they wanted the contraptions to produce better drawings. We also learned that the drawing accessory needs to consistently place the marker at the center of the robot’s base and must apply the right pressure to get even, unbroken strokes.
So, we posed the challenge to our designers and engineers at Wonder Workshop. What would an attachment look like for both Dash and Cue? How could the marker be lifted up and placed down for precise drawings? And how could the location of the marker lead to accurate drawings based on a program of movements? This research led us to creating the harness on the robots to hold the marker.
Once we solved the mechanical problem for attaching the marker in the right position, and the ability to control lifting and placing the marker on the surface, we found that the drawings still did not meet our bar for accuracy. We iterated on the robot’s software to improve the drawing accuracy. I am proud to share that when you program the robot to draw a hexagon with 40 cm sides on the Wonder Whiteboard Mat on a flat surface, the robot will be within 1 cm of the starting position at the end of the drawing. We welcome you to try it — and see how other robots rank in comparison.
The final result? Sketch Kit! This harness that holds a whiteboard marker snaps onto the bottom of both Dash and Cue and comes with six markers in different colors. The “Marker Up” and “Marker Down” commands are available in all the programming environments. You can also challenge yourself to create shapes based on the 10 project cards. With your programming, Dash and Cue can draw the hearts, houses, smiley faces, the hexagonal flower, or the alphabet, all with unprecedented accuracy and control.
Sketch Kit is compatible with Dash and Cue, and works with our Blockly and Wonder apps for Dash as well as the Cue apps (see device compatibility list). Read more about How to Get Started with Sketch Kit to help set imaginations free, and please tag us @WonderWorkshop to share your students’ creations! We can’t wait to see the creativity flourish.