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The world as a palette

Imagine being able to create art that reminds you of what you see when you are traveling. The luminous orange of that flower on a mountain hike in Mexico, the black crystalline sand on a volcanic beach in Martinique, the crumbling bark of a mysterious tree in Thailand. Photographs don't always capture the color and texture the way you remember things – but this amazing brush does. The I/O Brush looks like an unassuming wooden paintbrush, but it can be used to transfer color and texture from any surface onto an electronic canvas.

Invented by Kimiko Ryokai at MIT, the I/O Brush is more than just a way to sample colors. It has a small video camera inside it, as well as lights and touch sensors, that pick up the details of the surface being scanned. The data can then be transfered to a large touch screen with a back projection screen. And then you can paint freely – recreating the object you took it from, or something entirely different.

As the brush picks up those details, a camera hidden by the bristles films the action. Later, after a piece of art is complete, a viewer can touch a color on the canvas and see a short film of the texture being captured, putting the painting in context.

Alas, for now, it's only a prototype, but we're sure it won't be long 'til we have painting tablets and brushes that we can take with us as we travel. Then we can all be wandering Picassos or Monets – using the world around us as a palette.

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