Quick, imagine there was a small piece of hardware that you could program to draw anything from intricate geometric designs to delicate, perfectly crafted calligraphy. Introducing the Axidraw.
Behold, the disembodied hand of creation. Gasp as it signs its name with mechanical precision. Gaze in wonder as it creates artwork from interlacing triangles and portraiture from nothing more than dots or waving lines. Angrily demand your money back from that fraud that charged you $50 for calligraphy tuition, as the AxiDraw cordially invites you to the most tech-savvy wedding of the season.
Quietly put your stationery in the bin, go ahead, we’ll wait.
The people behind this witchcraft call themselves, wonderfully, the Evil Mad Scientist laboratory (EMSL to their friends).
The AxiDraw is described on the official EMSL site as “a simple, modern, precise and versatile pen plotter, capable of writing or drawing on almost any flat surface”. As reported by Makezine, the machine uses software extensions developed through Inkscape, a piece of “professional quality vector graphics software” used by design enthusiasts and professionals worldwide. According to its site, Inkscape is comparable in terms of functionality and quality to Adobe Illustrator.
What makes Inkscape interesting in terms of this project is the focus on its user community, as with many open-source programmes, users are encouraged to share their experiences, extensions and experiments online, leading to a large wealth of user-generated content.
Although the operation of the bot looks complicated, the product page suggests it’s actually fairly simple. The kit comes ready to use and attaches to a computer via USB, at which point “AxiDraw is normally controlled through a set of extensions to Inkscape… Basic operation is much like that of a printer driver: you import or make a drawing in Inkscape, and use the extensions to plot your text or artwork.”
EMSL are a small, family-based operation in California dedicated to producing “components and original kits in support of art, education and accessibility”.
They’ve already created the Eggbot, a contraption that mechanically draws on eggs, presumably because talented engineers get bored too sometimes, and the Watercolor Bot, we’ll let you guess what that one does.
The AxiDraw has no listed minimum operation requirements for your home computer, although it is suggested that it should be “reasonably modern”.
It would appear then, that the only thing standing between you and your very own tireless, soulless calligraphy servant, is the small matter of finding $US495.
Hey, there are much stupider things you could do with your cash after all.