Spray paint is a notoriously tricky medium to control with a reliable level of accuracy. Fortunately for would-be muralists everywhere, researchers have invented a "smart" spray paint system that can use regular cans of paint to re-create photo images as spray-painted murals on walls or other large surfaces.

The system is inspired by computer-aided painting, which has been around for decades. Webcams are set up in the painting area to monitor progress of the work and provide feedback to the user on a nearby computer monitor, showing what colors to use on each section of the painting in progress. A regular can of spray paint is inserted into the handheld system that automatically controls the flow of paint to reproduce the specific image loaded into its memory as a larger mural.

The prototype of the system basically turns the human user into the robot in the scenario, serving only to switch out paint colors when needed and wave the can in front of a canvas as the desired image "magically" appears.

"Our assistive approach is like a modern take on 'paint by numbers' for spray painting," says Wojciech Jarosz, an assistant professor of computer science at Dartmouth College who previously was a senior research scientist at Disney Research Zurich. "Most importantly, we wanted to maintain the aesthetic aspects of physical spray painting and the tactile experience of holding and waving a physical spray can while enabling unskilled users to create a physical piece of art."

The entire concept is very similar to the smartphone-based SprayPrinter system that launched an Indiegogo earlier this year, with the notable difference that this smart spray can was peer-reviewed and developed with support from ETH Zurich, Disney Research Zurich, Dartmouth College and Columbia University.

The system can be seen in use, in the video below. A paper on the development of the technology appears in the journal Computers & Graphics.

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