How to mod your Etch A Sketch, or Toy Story in real life

We’d like to file this under ‘things we wish we’d had when we were younger’. Who else is envious of the kids of today and all the cool things they can make with our old classic toys?

Etch A Sketch Robot – Elephant

Read about how this works on my blog! http://sunnybala.com/2018/09/10/python-etch-a-sketch.html

To a wave of upvotes and comments, Sunny Balasubramanian shared their Etch A Sketch project on Reddit, including all the information and code you need to build your own. Thanks, Sunny!

Dismantling the toys of our childhoods

The physical set up of the automated Etch A Sketch is pretty simple: motors attached to couplers replace the original plastic nobs, and a connected Raspberry Pi 3 controls the motors as directed by the code.

Etch a Sketch modded with a Raspberry Pi

For stability, Sunny attached a wooden block to the plastic housing that keeps the motors in place.

Coding new life into an Etch A Sketch

Sunny explains:

There’s a few different ways to go about this portion of the project. When I started out, I googled to see if anyone had done things like this before. A few projects popped up. They seemed to approach the drawing in one of two ways. I wanted to do it in a fully automated way where the only input is a picture and the output is a cleanly drawn image.

The code Sunny ended up using first takes an image and simplifies it into a line drawing using Canny edge detection. It then turns each pixel to a node and draws a path between the nodes, connecting them one by one. So that the Etch A Sketch draws the picture, the Raspberry Pi then directs the motors to follow the connections and create uncannily precise sketches.

Head to Sunny’s website for more information about their project, and download the full code from GitHub.

Two down, more to go…

With this automated Etch A Sketch, and this talking Fisher Price Chatter Telephone, the Raspberry Pi community is well on the way to recreating the entire Toy Story cast, and we are fully on board with that!

A GIF of Toy Story characters

So what’s next? A remote-controlled Slinky? A falling with style flying Buzz Lightyear? What would you build?