TEAM 14: LightPainter 3D
Spring 2012



Our project was inspired by the semi-obscure art form known as light painting (if you're not familiar with light painting, I would recommend this website:

Hopefully, I've now persuaded you that light painting is the coolest thing ever, and now you're ready to run outside and make your own light paintings (seriously, read the tutorial or google 'light painting' for some inspiration). Hold on there, not so fast! There are a lot of issues with light painting that make it really hard :

Hopefully, I've now persuaded you that light painting is horrible and that no person in their right mind should be doing it - I, for one, don't want to set myself on fire by spinning roman candles around on a string in a dark room with a seven hundered dollar camera somewhere nearby. If the best case scenario for that is that you make a pretty picture... nah.

Fear not! Our product takes all of the good from light painting and removes the fear of severe burns. By using a special camera housing, 2 cameras, and an arduino-powered pen (called the LightPen©), we wll create a low-cost, safe and easy alternative to light painting that adds additional functionality to what is currently a very tricky technique.

The LightPen©

Central to our product is the LightPen©. This is a handy device that our camera box (to be discussed in a second) tracks and that you (the user!) draws with. It is an ergonomic device that contain an arduino, an antenna, several buttons (on/off, capture, light select, color choice, and undo), and sliders (to vary the intensity and blink rate of the light, from "off" to "constantly on"). It comes with an LED tip that can be set to several colors, and you'll have the option of switching out one tip for another (different shapes, larger or smaller light sources) for drawing different sorts of images.

The Light Box© Light Box Diagram

This is a special camera and housing combination that will capture the position of the LightPen© in 3D space (using triangulation between the two cameras) and light from the LightPen© as you are drawing.

The Idea

The idea is this: plop the Light Box© in front of a computer, plug it in, and draw in the air with the LightPen©. You won't have to turn off all the lights in the room, because we're only capturing a small point of light. Also, you'll be able to see what you're drawing, because we'll be rendering to a screen as you're drawing - and if you make a mistake (and we all make mistakes) just undo it - you won't have to discard the whole image like you would have to in traditional light painting. Finally, You don't run the risk of setting yourself on fire.

Our solution is portable, cost-effective, and easy to use. Our final product will have a final price point of less than $100. It will be easy to set up and use.

But Wait, There's More!

The discrening reader may have noticed that the product is called the 'LightPen 3D' but that we haven't actually described anything that is 3D yet! Fear not! We have considered this very complaint and have taken inspiration from it. Do you remember that I mentioned 'we will capture the position of the pen in 3D space?' We will take these 3D coordinates, and create a complete 3D image of what you've drawn that can be exported in various formats. This means that when you're drawing with the LightPen©, you're not just re-creating an art form that exists already - you're creating a 3D model. The applications for this are practically endless.

So maybe the last one isn't a business idea, but I don't know any more than you do about what the all-powerful CEO thinks about in his or her spare time. Maybe it's the secret dream of every CEO outline themselves in powerful red light (which, of all the colors, is the best color for business). With the light painter, they can do that! Like I said, there are endless possibilities - serious art tool, business tool, or plain old toy.


Traditional Light Painting

  • Requires an expensive digital camera (>$400)
  • Requires detailed knowledge of specific camera settings
  • Can't undo mistakes in images
  • Can't see image while drawing
  • Is constrained to a dark room
Kinect and Wii-based solutions
  • Generated digital light, creating unnatural images
  • Not accurate enough / would frustrate users with drawing errors
  • $150 (Kinect) or $195 (Wii)
3D Freehand Drawing Pen
  • Unintuitive to use
  • Still in development stages
  • Constrined to a small area
Rhonda 3D Drawing Tool
  • Compact and portable
  • Tablet-based
  • Challenging to learn
  • Unavailable commercially at present


Hardware: Software:

We will be taking advantage of open source software as well as designing our own. Open Source:

To be developed:



Our product has been designed to meet the following goals:

In addition, we will attempt to meet the following as well:


Light tracking not accurate enough
Instead of relying on open source algorithms, we will create our own that are designed to track point light sources
LightPen battery failure
If the system detect that the Light Pen has died, it will save your progress automatically, so that you can come back to work on it later.
Signal loss from LightPen
We will build a large antenna into the camera housing to increase the signal strength
Imperceptible delay is not achievable
We can scale down the resolution of the rendered image while still saving the high resolution image to output later
Too many buttons needed to control various LightPen features
If needed, we will only have buttons for ON/Off, Capture, and Light Color Change.


Coming Soon!


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