Feb 22, 2016 | By Benedict
A patent filed by Microsoft concerning its planned 'Color Control' technology details the company’s potential plans to develop a color- and texture-sensing stylus. The device could be used with CAD software to produce texturally detailed models for 3D printing.
From casual MS Paint users to expert Photoshop tinkerers and everyone in between, all users of image editing software will have encountered the “color picker” tool. Represented in most applications by a pipette icon, the tool enables the user to determine the exact color of an area of an image, eliminating the need to approximate that color with the naked eye. Users can, for example, click on part of a red apple using the color picker tool, and the application will deploy that exact shade of red for painting, filling, spraying, shape-making, or any other tool with which color can be used.
Color picking can therefore prove useful in many image editing situations. A photographer, for example, may have taken a beautiful picture of a sunset without noticing a pesky speck of dust on her lens. The dust, however, need not ruin the photograph, as the photographer can color pick a patch of the sky near to the speck, before carefully coloring over the erroneous area with the paintbrush tool. A designer, alternatively, may be constructing an abstract digital image for an artistic project. He may have used a particular shade of green, but forgotten its RGB color code. Again, there is no problem when the color picker is at hand: The designer can color pick part of the existing green area, before resuming his painting in that color.
At present, color picking is used to identify a color in a digital image, to be used in that or another digital image. But what if those horizons could be broadened beyond the digital world? Incredibly, Microsoft seems poised to drag the color picker out of the Paint sidebar and into the real world, having recently had a patent published for a real-world color picking tool. That’s right, a patent for Color Control, filed back in August 2014, details the tech giant’s plans to develop a unique stylus, one which could detect the color and texture of physical objects. As demonstrated in a series of diagrams, this would allow users to identify the exact color of, say, the petal of a flower, using the Color Sensing Tip of the stylus, before using the same device to draw the flower on a tablet. Just imagine the great artists of centuries past being told of this technology: Mixing your paints again, Mr Monet? Why not simply point your paintbrush at the waterlily?
The 30-page patent highlights a number of features of and uses for the Color Control technology. The hardware would be equipped with an LED, photosensor, UV filter, and numerous other sensors, all of which would be used to accurate determine colors and textures—the latter being a particularly complicated operation. The stylus would also feature several buttons for quick commands. In addition to color picking in drawing applications, the stylus could be used to launch applications and commands via the selection of particular colors. A user could, for example, program his computing device to run an email application whenever the stylus senses navy blue, unless it is clear that the stylus is being used for drawing purposes. The patent’s several flow charts suggest that the device could make this binary decision automatically.
Should Microsoft choose to develop and manufacture it, the Color Control stylus could have important implications for 3D scanning and 3D printing. The ability to determine the textures of physical objects with a small, handheld device could help 3D designers produce accurate and detailed surface textures on CAD models without the use of a 3D scanner. These CAD models could then be used to make 3D printed objects.
Of course, the two-year-old patent in no way guarantees that Microsoft will manufacture the stylus. Nevertheless, we are keenly anticipating the company’s next step in this interesting graphical direction.
Posted in 3D Printing Application
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