Watch this drone scribble on a canvas at HUBweek

Sang-won Leigh, a research assistant at the MIT Media Lab, demonstrates the drone.
Sang-won Leigh, a research assistant at the MIT Media Lab, demonstrates the drone. –Jean Nagy /

Drawing with a pen and paper is so last year.

As part of HUBweek, the MIT Media Lab showed off its fancy drone-based drawing system on Thursday.

Here’s how it works: The user draws on a canvas placed on a desk, and a computer captures the pen’s movement and rescales the figure. A drone, which hovers in the air in front of a larger canvas, then mimics the motions after receiving signals, allowing it to recreate the drawing in real time.

“If you see the video, [the drone]’s not accurate at all,’’ Sang-won Leigh, a Ph.D. candidate at MIT and research assistant in the MIT Media Lab who helped to develop the technology, told “It creates this wiggly, funny kind of drawing.’’


Thursday marked the first time people were able to engage with the technology, Leigh said. He and his collaborators, Harshit Agrawal and Pattie Maes, have been working on the idea since February, but recognize they have more work to do before the technology has any sort of practical implications.

“This is more about the idea of how machine and man can be integrated and work together,’’ Leigh said. “What I want to do is show what kind of future is possible.’’

The demonstration may not have resulted in an artistic masterpiece, but it is pretty cool to watch. Check out some video footage of the drone in action here:

Related gallery: 20 inventions created in New England

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