I was not one of those lucky souls blessed with the ability to draw, so I’ll take any help I can get in that department. Rulers were a godsend in school, and tracing and color-by-numbers proved indispensable in times of need. So it was with a great deal of interest that I came across this demo video of the dePENd, an experimental surface that promises to make a skilled draftsman out of even the most hopeless dunces, using nothing but the magic of magnets.
The table, seen here in a video shot by DigInfo, is being developed by a group of researchers at the Yasuaki Kakehi Lab at Keio University in Japan. It seems incredible at first, but the mechanism at work is entirely straightforward. A computer controls the position of a magnet beneath a certain portion of the drawing surface, dragging whatever metal-tipped writing implement the user happens to be holding above it in straight lines and perfect circles. The resulting shapes aren’t perfectly crisp--you can tell there’s an awkward, delicate balance holding the pen steady and letting the magnet pull it around--but they’re definitely better than what most can do freehand.
The table works with any ordinary ball-point pen, though the current design requires that you start drawing at a specific point on the surface--the center point of the grid on which the magnet moves below. If you’re using a digital pen, the system can recognize where you are and guide you through a shape at any point.
Though it might not be a realistic solution for the pictorially challenged, the folks behind the project do see some potential real-world applications. In the clip, the man demonstrating mentions how such a system could be used for remote teaching, allowing students to learn by "feeling the sensation of how a teacher draws." I would settle for just feeling the sensation of drawing a square that didn’t look like it was about to fall over.
[Hat tip: Prosthetic Knowledge]