This Robot Arm Takes Your On-Screen Art to the Printed Page

For all millennials confounded by analogue ‘technologies’ like pen and pad, Rob Poll and Durrell Bishop’s Line-us is the wifi-connected robotic drawing arm helping us reconnect with the process of good old-fashioned illustration. The USB battery-powered gadget, small enough to carry around, works on iPads, iPhones, Android tablets and Android smartphones, and Mac and PC laptops.

“Line-us will appeal to lots of different people”, technologist and photographer Rob explains, “you may want to use Line-us to create your own drawings, or perhaps use the trace feature to improve your drawing skills.” The Line-us machine faithfully recreates your digital doodles on paper, and comes with an app to draw, share and save drawings, or ‘subscribe’ to drawings that your favourite illustrators and artists publish.


Indispensable art supply? Ominous sign of the increasingly digitised times? We’ll let you make up your own mind. In the meantime, we speak to creator Rob Poll about this ingenious invention.


The Plus: Where did you get the idea for a portable robotic drawing arm?
Rob Poll:
Line-us came about as the result of a chance meeting between Durrell and his friend Tim Lewis (a kinetic artist) in London last Summer. We all decided to see if we could create an electro-mechanical drawing machine that could connect to the internet, using simple low cost components.


TP: What kind of challenges do you face designing a robotic drawing arm?
We wanted to keep the cost of Line-us low so we could make it affordable for as many people as possible, so one of the main challenges has been squeezing the best possible performance out of simple, low-cost components. We’ve enjoyed the design, engineering and software challenge required to keep it simple, and keep the cost down.


TP: What kind of things do you think robotics will be able to help with in the creative/art sectors?
The most obvious way is with repetition. Additionally, robotics could allow artists to work with materials that would otherwise be very difficult, or on a scale that would be otherwise impossible. There could also be opportunities to allow artists to create work remotely, or in multiple locations simultaneously.


TP: How long do you think it will be before robots can creatively draw better than humans?
I think getting robots to make convincing drawings is achievable, but getting robots to really make creative drawings is a bit of a stretch.


TP: What’s next for Line-us?
We’d love to make more robots. Maybe a much larger version of Line-us, perhaps a more accurate one, or even something completely different. We’ve also got lots of ideas for ‘accessories’ for Line-us – maybe we’ll produce some ourselves, or perhaps we’ll publish plans so people can make their own.


Overall body dimensions: 83 x 97 x 25mm (3.3” x 3.8” x 1”)
Weight: 150g (5.3 oz)
Power: USB 5V
Price: Retail price will be around £99 when production of new units begins. Sign up to the Line-us newsletter to receive updates.