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google sketchbot portrait

Get your portrait drawn in the sand by a robot with this Google experiment

Ever wanted to take a photo with your webcam and get it sketched in sand by a robot at a museum in London? Well, your dream could come true… if you’re a Google Chrome user.

Lauren Granger
While studying towards her Bachelor of Journalism degree at Rhodes University, Lauren gave into her fascination with everything digital. As she was more interested in creeping... More

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Thanks to a new API in the new version of Chrome, web apps will be able to ‘see’ and ‘hear’ you. According to an official blog post, the browser update includes the getUserMedia API, which allows you to grant web apps access to your webcam and microphone without a plugin. This allows experiments like Google’s Sketchbot access to your camera, so it can capture an image of your face. This is then converted into a line drawing which is sent to a robot at the Science Museum in London, which then starts drawing your portrait in the sand in front of it. Then you can sit back and watch the artistic robot live on YouTube, or ask them to send you the video when it’s done. Yes, really.

The sketchbot experiment is part of a Chrome Web Lab exhibition at the museum, which features five experiments including a data tracer which pinpoints where in the world a web image is stored and a ‘teleporter’ which shows you a real-time HTML video stream from locations including Cape Town’s Two Oceans Aquarium and the world’s largest model railway exhibition in Germany.

The exhibition is open to the public for the next year — but if you’re not in London, it’s all on the Chrome Web Lab website.

Want to see a Sketchbot in action? Watch this user‘s timelapse of his sand portrait: