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Scribble – create stop motion animations on a drawing pad

By Damir Beciri
21 May 2010

scribble-teamA team of Art and Design students at the University of Michigan have created a prototype electronic doodle pad called the Scribble that animates your drawings. The Scribble animation toy grew out of a December focus group in which student designers asked third-graders what they wanted from Santa Claus. You simply hand-draw a series of successive images on it or use its built-in camera in order to create your animated masterworks.

Designed by A&D Sophomore team of Alexis Stepanek, Ryan Thurmer, Chris Parker and Penn Greene, the Scribble was initially created to compete in the Michigan Toy Competition, sponsored by the Center for Entrepreneurship and Giddy Up Toys. The outside casing was modeled in Rhino and rapid prototyped in ABS plastic. The electronics were ripped from an Eee PC and the touch screen was specially ordered. A plastic tip pen is used in order to draw on its touchscreen.

Once you’ve drawn and saved your first image, the lines of that image change from black to grey. You can then draw your second image over the top of the first one, using its gray lines as a guide for the progression of your animation. When you’ve saved the second image, the lines of the first one will disappear, but the lines of the second will still be there to guide you as you draw the third. The same principle is used in traditional animation. There’s also a built-in camera for stop-motion animation.


There are several modes that help create unlimited animations. When first turned on, the toy is in draw mode, allowing the user to either take a picture or draw the first frame. Pressing the rectilinear button saves the frame, onion skins the drawing and allows the user to draw the next frame. When the user is finished with their animation, they press the green triangular button and watch their drawings come to life. If there is a flaw in the animation, or if the user would like to add a section, they may enter review mode by pressing the yellow triangle, allowing them to flip through the animation, frame by frame and make adjustments.

“Many wanted interactive touch screen devices such as iPods or Nintendo DS’s,” said Thurmer, an undergraduate student in the School of Art & Design. “Using this information, we reflected on vivid memories of creating flip books as children. We knew we wanted to re-create those experiences and memories, but in a more environmentally friendly and technological way, without the use of paper.”

Although we support the ideas that improve the creativity of children (and idling adults), its developers must be careful before they try to commercialize it. Many software developers could easily create something similar for mobile phones or tablets and we believe this kind of product should be an affordable alternative that could be entrusted to younger children without the concern weather they will break it or lose it.

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