So, as you folks know, I picked up a Wowwee Rovio Mobile Webcam (basically a WiFi tank with a webcam) a few months back. Though missing it's battery pack, it's otherwise fully functional, I had it publicly usable for a time running on a home-made battery pack made of AA NiMH cells. Cute, fun... but in all honesty, I keep on looking at it wishing I had something a little more useful to my interests rather than the ultimate radio-controlled car.
I also am looking for a way to carry out something I've envisioned for some time.. either an x/y table or (even better) a robotic arm (or some other reasonably usable positioning system). What I want to do is build and teach a robotic system to paint. In acrylics. Not nozzles, not jets. Brushwork. Initially I'll have to mix the colors, but in time, I'd automate as much as possible. I want to be able to handle at least 8x10.. a plotter MIGHT suffice if it had high clearance and was, say, 11x17". An arm of course gives all the range I need.. but a bit pricey compared to a mobile webcam, methinks..
Conceptually, it's really not that bad.. I'd actually likely use watercolors first, simply because doing the work via Washes is probably completely possible.. color intensity is deposited pigment (so can be wash-layered), and monochrome would be possible too, so a "first version" would be reasonably easy assuming a motion control system with even 1/4" accuracy. It'd have to start as flood/dot to work out the kinks of motion, but I'm betting vector-based "Brushstrokes" can be worked out. Sure, There's better ways to print. I want to do it cooler, not better. I want to make an art printer that in and of itself is a work of technological art.
Carried to where I'd REALLY love to take it.. envision this system (a camera, hidden computer, and robotic arm) set up with a bit of window dressing to appear more like a human automaton or even a Terminator-esque Cyborg.. the surreal vision of an artificial artist painting in the styles of the Masters. A few blinky lights and chrome. A stainless-steel skull wearing a jaunty beret, red eyes (diffused LED) staring blindly nowhere while the arm (clad in a smock as much as possible, but NOT completely) creates a recognizable knockoff of Water Lilies or the Mona Lisa... or your own portrait, live. Stunning, creepy, and you wouldn't be able to look away. It's meant to be art in it's own way.
What I'm wondering is if there's any tinkerers out there that might be interested in swapping something I could use in terms of x/y (I'm planning hobby servo mounted brush) for that little Rovio... someone should be having fun with the Rovio, and I'd prefer something I can apply towards this slightly demented "Art" project.
I'm figuring that a plotter table might work, since an arm is a little crazy, cost wise. To make the "artist", I'd run the empty sleeve of the painter's smock and just attach it to the "print head", so the "arm and hand" would move with the brush, rather than vice versa, but it'd still work visually. Bascally prop up the plotter table on an easel, then try to creatively cover as much of the mechanism from view as possible..
An xy table is going to run on steppers, Arduino to the rescue. Yes, it's a crazy idea, but I can't seem to shake it. In terms of managing the physical automation system, Arduino is going to be the right answer, I'm betting.. the code will be.. interesting. Accounting for amount of paint on the brush by estimation will be needed, the trial and error alone on that ought to be enough to drive me the rest of the way over the edge..