Magic Cube

Medium: Arduino, Adobe Photoshop, Adobe Illustrator, Laser Cut (Collaboration Project)

We believe kids all enjoy painting, whereas fancy painting skills require practice and experiences. When kids paint with markers and pens on physical papers, at most of the time, they may accidentally draw on tables and clothes, and cause trouble for their parents. Therefore, Magic Cube aims to promote the development of children’s creativity by allowing them practice on combining visual elements of different styles through the interaction with technology instead of painting of traditional ways.

Educational Game For Kids 7+


In order to promote children’s creativity, we design the Magic Cube, an interactive toy contains painting of two different styles: Chinese Water Painting and Cartoon. As the user places the cube on the electric board, an individual element will appear on the screen. The user may rearrange the location and composition of elements to create their own digital images of combination of two styles.

The System

To create the painting elements, we use Adobe Photoshop and Adobe Illustrator. Firstly, we painted with different sizes of brushes on canvas and scan each into PDF files. After converting them into PDF files, we opened them into Adobe Photoshop and adjusted its color into the black and white, which exactly imitating Chinese Water Painting. Selecting brushes from the files and pasted to the tool bar of Adobe Illustrator. After the brush library has been created, we started actually painting out the images. Our team chooses Chinese Water Color and Cartoon style because of our idea of combining classical painting with modern style technologies to accomplish Data Visualization. We challenge applying Classical Chinese Water Color to the electrical pad. It is easier for beginners or people who are not familiar with this specific style of painting to interact with Asian Culture. Besides Chinese ink painting, we also include child-like Cartoon elements to enlarge the range of our customers and enclose the distance between this product and young children.

The combination of Chinese ink painting and hand-drawing painting provides a more adaptive concept for consumers, and creates comprehensive feeling to people of all age range. In the coding part, we combine Arduino and Processing to build the connection between the digital changes on screen and physical movement in reality. We imported Arduino Firmata library and serial library in Processing and then draw out the logic line in our toy. The most difficult part of coding was the buttons’ code. Since we wanted the image to move without showing its track, we needed to refresh the background every time image moves. The problem is if we refreshed the background, the image we placed before will also disappear and that was not what we want. In order to avoid this issue, we needed to get a screenshot after image moves and use the latest screenshot as background every time. We also used a potentiometer to control the image size. Using the “scale” method could easily achieve this, but we corrected the float read by the potentiometer to one decimal place otherwise the image would twinkle because of the unstable float.


Before coming out the idea of Magic Cube, we discovered Reactable, which is also an interactive tool allows people manipulating digital images and sounds through physical movement. Reactable is an interactive remixed musical instrument, which made by a research team at Pompeu Fabra University in Barcelona. The company of Reactable System further develop the instrument with unlimited possibilities to create an interactive musical instrument for users to control this instrument with several acrylic cubes directly and easily. By placing different cubes on the top of a screen table, the program will sense the different patterns on each cube to change the musical speed, tone, and beat. Another part of Magic Cube’s idea is from Ivan Sutherland’ s computing artwork, called Sketchpad, which was developed in 1963 at MIT’s Lincoln Labs. With Ivan Sutherland’s Sketchpad, people can draw geometric shapes and easily change their positions on the computer screen by clicking buttons.

Inspired by Reactable and Sketchpad, we came out our initial idea of creating an interactive and user-friendly painting toy for kids and beginners, which is called Magic Cube. Compared to the last transducer project, our team set up a challenge to the toy design with laser cut which we never used before. In the Magic Cube, we prepared two colors of acrylic cubes, and the two cubes have different patterns, which symbolize diverse painting styles. We used laser cut to make a board. There are nine squares on the board for users to place the two cubes. For increasing more painting possibilities and the level of interesting for kids, each square has four screws, and there are two ways to place cubes on each square. There are eighteen circuits on the board for kids to draw eighteen images in total. When user places any cube on the square, the circuit will be connected and dingle element of painting will appear on the screen.