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Machine Sketches Patent Drawings, Telling the Story of Innovation

Every picture tells a story, but in this case, every story tells a picture — dozens of pictures, in fact, which, when viewed together, tell a story of innovation and technology.

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Meet the Perpetual Storytelling Apparatus, which takes your plain old garden-variety words and converts them into a visual language of intricate sketches culled from patent drawings.

The apparatus was designed by Julius von Bismarck and Benjamin Maus, two German artists working in Berlin. Since the machine itself is a funny hybrid of digital and analog technologies — like a dot-matrix printer with a pencil in its hand — it’s absolutely mesmerizing to watch in-action in the video above.

The process starts by downloading the text of a book, and discarding insignificant words like “I” and “the.” Then the machine arranges the existing text chronologically into keywords it can use to search for patents. The patents themselves — seven million of them — share a language of 22 million searchable terms, including the referential drawings of earlier patents called “prior art.” So the machine winds its way through the searchable terms and prior art to find connections between them, assembling them into a narrative that shows how these patents and the concepts behind them are related.

The resulting tapestry of images and ideas would make for a geeky wallhanging in an industrial designer’s studio for sure. But it also could reveal some interesting insights about major technological advances — and allow designers to see connections between products and inventions that haven’t previously been visualized.

[Via Creative Applications]

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