For a toy that’s been hanging around for the better part of 50 years, the good old Etch-a-Sketch has certainly etched out its place in the popular imagination. With just two knobs, a magnet and lots of metal shavings, the Etch-a-Sketch has been one of the great ways to pass some time on a rainy afternoon. Unfortunately, given its design and size, drawing with the Etch-a-Sketch has always been a solitary pursuit. Unless you had two.
Well, no more. Tasked to make an exhibit for the Playhouse Unconference in their native Manchester, the hackspace group HAC:Manchester decided to build an Etch-a-Sketch that would take all the fun of the original and add a social element. They achieved this the same way science should always solve problems; they made it bigger. They call it the Project-a-Sketch.
There was more to it than just making it larger of course. After building a plastic frame and knobs, they used an encoder to read the movement of the knobs to approximate the sketchy vertical and horizontal lines of the classic drawing toy. Then they used a rear projection screen to display the resultant squiggles. The reason they used rear projection was so that users of the giant Etch-a-Sketch wouldn’t block the screen as they used it. Pretty clever these Manchester hackers. Innovation and technology aside, the final test of the Project-a-Sketch is of course how fun it is to use. Luckily, the unveiling was recorded on video, and the Project-a-Sketch looks like it has the social element down pat.