Boris Smus

interaction engineering

Project Exupery

Exupery was a voice-powered sketching robot. I named it after Antoine de Saint-Exupéry because of the conversation in his most famous book where the Little Prince asks the pilot to draw him a picture of a sheep. You, too, can now ask Exupery to sketch pictures of things, and it will try to oblige. It replicates sketches drawn by real people playing the game Quick, Draw!, and adding a bit of flourish. Try the online demo, and read on to find out more.

The hardware version of Exupery was built as a showpiece for the AIY Projects Voice Kit and presented at Maker Faire back in 2017 (see photos). To show it off at Maker Faire, we used an AxiDraw V3, a maker-friendly and surprisingly precise pen plotter. Here's an example of a sketch being produced using the hardware. Be sure to unmute this video to hear the linear actuator servomotor's song!

Today, given the slim chance that you have such a device, Exupery can also just run on the web, with a virtual pen drawing on a virtual canvas. To get Exupery sketching, say something like "draw me a sheep". If you aren't satisfied with your sheep, try "do it again". Once you're ready to move on, ask it to "draw something else" for a random sketch.

Exupery has a few fun features going above and beyond the call of duty. Great artists sign their work, so Exupery labels the thing it sketches after drawing it. Implementing this was a fun excuse to dig into vector fonts. If you don't keep it occupied with a query quickly enough, Exupery gets bored and starts drawing little doodles all over the canvas. The entire user interface for Exupery is sketched using icons from Quick, Draw!. This includes the virtual pencil it uses to draw, as well as the microphone indicating that it's time to speak.

Exupery was a fun project hearkening back to a simpler time. Today I'm pleased to revive it and release it into the world. So try it out live, grab the code on github and as always, I'd love to hear your thoughts. À bientôt!