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Draw This: a polaroid camera that draws cartoons (danmacnish.com)
361 points by neuhaus 7 months ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 55 comments

6 years ago someone made this: http://mattrichardson.com/Descriptive-Camera/

It uses Mechanical Turk. Pretty incredible to see that in 6 short years neural networks have made an automated version of essentially the same idea possible.

This project is still using crowd-sourced sketches though. It's automating the object detection and localization, then placing a sketch of that object in that location, selected at random from the Google QuickDraw dataset.


That camera can tell you what the Sistine Chapel looks like - but it can't tell you why you were there, or the importance of the photo.

Sure that cupboard in the article might look ugly, but it was the first completed DIY project for the camera man.

Image that sort of context getting applied by AI...

I really like this. If you are concerned about BPA exposure, you might rethink the thermal printer: https://cen.acs.org/articles/95/i35/Touching-thermal-paper-r...

Do you have a suggestion for an alternative printer?

The printer isn't the problem, it's just a heater. The problem is the paper. You can get BPA-free paper, though it seems like the standard replacement is just as bad (it contains BPS).

There is a Vitamin C-derived paper by a company called Appvion. You can buy it on Amazon but apparently it's not great.

Anyone else think of this from the title?


Yes! Thank you for the link :)

Wow, this is just such a great idea. Dan (author) if you're reading these comments, you should definitely sell these cameras as a product.

Also would love to see some side-by-sides of an actual image and the Draw This photo.

EDIT: installing the project locally right now -- will see if I can generate some side-by-sides :)

Get the Flintstones license, make it look like it was carved in rock by a dinosaur inside the camera.

This is one of the greatest toy idea of the century, and yet I'm sad that it's never going to see store shelves.

I think it depends on the market. Younger kids I would imagine aren't familiar with a 50 year old cartoon.

I very much want to see side by side samples. Also the ability to buy would be pretty cool.

I recommend starting with an app...

Given these cameras are:

* Fairly easy to make, a la github instructions

* Can command a _very steep_ margin per sale, compared to an app

* Offer (imo) most of the product value by being something physical/tangible you can show to your friends

* Polaroid cameras are surprisingly popular https://www.wsj.com/articles/fujifilm-zooms-in-on-instaxs-re...

I think I'd have to disagree here!

OTOH if it’s even mildly successful someone will clone it in app form within a week anyway, which will almost certainly crush hardware sales. (Why pay $99 for a gimmicky camera when a $1 app does basically the same thing? All my friends are on Instagram anyway.)

I say just get the app out there first and try to make up for the lower price per unit with volume. If it becomes truly popular and there’s demand for physical prints then rebadge and sell a commodity Bluetooth printer.

It's probably gonna be for the gift market. Also parties, weddings etc, keep one on each table for fun

An app that does this would lose its novelty pretty quickly I think. The delight comes from a black box spitting out a physical piece of paper with the drawing on it.

I mean, that might also lose novelty after a few uses, but it would always be a conversation starter and a cool thing to leave on your coffee table.

There are already many deep-learning based image processing apps, including ones that apply style transfer.

Yeah I'd buy this as a gift in a heartbeat

reminds me of the Twoflower's camera+dwarf from the Pratchet's Discworld.. :)

I would totally buy this. I bet many other people would as well...

I bet many people would use this device one or two times and then abandon it forever. It's useless

I think I'd use it more if the drawings were far more detailed, but still kept that napkin drawing look.

Though tbh, I'd vastly prefer a printer that just did this, not a camera. Then I can take normal photos with my phone, maybe even preview what the drawing might look like, and then print it with the draw printer.

What about children? With an appropriate case, it can become a great toy.

Nothing to say...children are weird!

That's probably true, but it's the same pattern with most things people buy. Especially toys and gadgets. Gets used once or twice and then sits on a shelf or in a closet.

The same could be said about books.

Which are usually made from recycled material, and can easily be recycled.

It depends on a book.

Very fun. Nice idea and execution. I like how minimalist it looks. It has a kind of GameBoy camera vibe, but with neural networks.

Last year, I realized a "polaroid" photobooth robot which does some neural art style transfer. https://github.com/GistNoesis/Linn-Photobooth . It's kind of the opposite approach in term of complexity, but it's fun nonetheless.

Hopefully they could be unified when the more powerful Raspberry Model 8b+ is out in a few years.

Any image examples?

Sorry, I had no more paper when it was time to do the videos, so you'll have to imagine it from the video demo images. Format is postcard, quality is postcard level with optional borders. Printer is specified, so you can see plenty of video of it printing.

From the github project:

> close the app using cntrl-C once the downloads have finished.

Weird that you can't detect this and bail out but I guess it's just a one-shot :-)

This is fun. I want one. Kickstarter?

This is fun. It would be awesome if it can piece together the body so that it would not look like floating t-shirt and pants :D

I expected a 3d printed Cartesian robot holding a pen, for the printer part.

I think this is awesome. My '2 cents' - stretch the imagination of the impressionable by implying that there is a 'little man' inside the box.

'How does it work daddy?'

'Well son, there is a little man inside the box...'

- my dad, circa some many decades ago, standard answer.

Actually my grandma on the other side of the family fully believed such things but that is another story.

You need not have a 'little man' inside the box, you could go with 'Kevin the autistic squirrel' or maybe something a bit more politically correct. You could even add temperament that way so the parent could explain with some credible make believe why 'Kevin' has drawn something random. Maybe add the randomness in so 'Kevin' gets bored/tired/petulant on occasion, adding in doodles or perhaps loving/kind words. Awareness of the purchaser's birthday and current location could add to the fun, to draw a side drawing of the Eiffel Tower if on holiday in Paris, rain clouds if it is raining etc.

The fun to be had...

Or just give an actual explanation. The truth doesn't have to be boring.

"In this hole here is the camera lens. When you point it at something and press the button, the camera takes a picture. Then a little computer in here turns the picture into a drawing, and then the printer puts the drawing on paper, which comes out here." Bonus points for doing a teardown to show the parts.

Kids can be just as impressed by the real world as by made-up stories, and even things learned in early childhood can have long-lasting effects. For example, once I was sitting in physics class listening to the teacher and suddenly had a flashback of my father giving a much better explanation of the same thing when I was maybe 5 years old.

I think the intermediate step is quite interesting too. "There is a program that turns the image into a list of objects and positions. Then an another program takes that list and draws a new image using it."

...but you know that would not be challenging. Why would you want to 'steal' the camera and surreptitiously take it apart AND put it back together again if things were fully explained in an adult way?

There is a good reason why we tell children about Father Christmas and don't tell them the truth of the realities of modern manufacturing techniques, the intricacies of finances and such like.

It can be as challenging as you want it to be. Each of the components offers infinite options for recursion. How does the camera lens create a picture? How does the computer make a drawing? How does the printer put a picture on paper? And how do we put this thing back together after taking it apart?

I think the major reason why parents prefer stories about Father Christmas is that they are familiar with the concept of a white-bearded guy climbing down chimneys to leave presents, but they could not explain how a factory robot works or how feedback loops in financial markets can lead to oscillation.

Of course you have to make sure the child is actually interested, but if it wants to know about the camera in TFA, then redirecting that interest towards a story about autistic squirrels just because you happen to find that hilarious doesn't seem like such a nice thing to me.

The dull science lecture approach may be suited to a mature teenage who is just about to sit their physics, maths and computer science exams.

However, it is important to give younger children stories such as Father Christmas, the Tooth Fairy and the like to stimulate their creativity and play. Not one single book in a primary school library is fact based. Children do not seem to be damaged by this. Nobody grows up mentally scarred because they learn that Santa is not real, with chips on their shoulders because they have been betrayed by their lying parents.

Fun is allowed and it does not have to be boring, mandatory, tedious lectures that daddy thinks are more 'educational'. Some people don't move on from playing games, some people will instinctively want to hack games and write their own. Furby style toys are okay, bags of resistors with instructions to build your own are not for all age groups.

Couldn't disagree more.

The sun being a super-heated ball of plasma firing neutrinos right through you is no less enchanting or imagination provoking than magical explanations. Describing radio to pre-schoolers is challenging though.

Father Christmas is anathema to me. It doesn't appear to have had any deleterious effects at all with the creativity of our kids, we play make believe, we dress up, draw pictures, act and make fun.

Why lie? People give our kids presents with "from Santa" on, and we're happy to say who really gave it -- that there are people who think about you, care about you, spent money they worked hard for, that's a hugely awesome thing. Knowing you are part of such a community, and that they (the kids) can do positive things in their lives too - demonstrating care of, love for, or even just charity towards others - that's transformative IMO.

I have no problem with telling fictional stories to kids, but I also disagree with your portrayal of fictional wonder vs dull lecture. Reality doesn't have to be dull. Carl Sagan's Cosmos has been seen by 500M people and many people who were kids then still remember being glued to the TV, fascinated by the science.

As someone who was fascinated much more by how circuits work than "it's magic", I agree with you.

> Not one single book in a primary school library is fact based.

What a strange idea. Didn't your primary school have an encyclopaedia? Didn't you study any science or history then?

Or do we have a different idea of the age of children at primary school? Where I come from (southern England, born 1955) I was dissecting buttercups and sketching them at the age of nine or ten, demonstrating that pondweed generated some sort of gas by putting an upturned test tube above it, etc.

We studied history with reference to Roman roads and neolithic hill forts.

And of course we played loads of competitive sports.

Lots and lots of facts.

No one said it had to be a “dull science lecture approach”.



> Not one single book in a primary school library is fact based.

That would be a terrible library. Libraries for children are full of a wide range of books, including some that are pure fact.

I'm made out of the same sort of universal stuff that the camera is, just twisted into a drastically different orientation. We're both built of these particles of experience. In a way, there is a little man inside the camera. He's just a camera-shaped little man, and the camera itself IS the little man.

> 'Well son, there is a little man inside the box...'

You could even sell it to the Amish :)

That's not how the Amish do things, decisions are not made based on type of technology, but rather on it's effect.

This is fantastic and hilarious and clever. They could apply this to sponsor a child charities to increase donation frequency, duration and amount by having it draw pictures and write back in a very personal and child-like way based on donor sent pictures and letters. Your welcome.

Anybody know how to get past the import error when trying to run cartoonify on MacOS?: ImportError: cannot import name run, discussed here: https://github.com/danmacnish/cartoonify/issues/5

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