Chameleon | The color collecting stylus

Wolfgang Wischmann

März / March - 2018

Folkwang Universität der Künste


Chameleon is the hardware basis of the tablet-PC gaming concept developed in the bachelors thesis. It is a stylus-brush with toy characteristics that can be used to collect colors from any surface. Those colors can then be used on the touchscreen.

What is the Topic?

As almost everybody owns a smartphone these days and as tablet-PCs have essentially become an alternative to PCs, more and more young children have access to such devices. Recent studies show that most 3-year-olds already regularly engage in activities based on these technologies. On the other hand the apps specifically designed for such a young age, especially those with a higher educational value, are quite limited. So the focus of the bachelors thesis was the development of an interactive game concept for young children, starting at 3 years of age, based on a tablet-PC app with an active hardware component.

Why does it look like this?

Chameleon closely resembles the classical paintbrush. Through this shape, already known by the children, the basic functionality of Chameleon is correctly presumed and it is used as intended right away. The design can be described as rounded and soft but compared to a paintbrush somewhat broadened. While the rounded shape is beneficial to the occasionally rather wild games, the relatively large circumference helps the youngest users get an intuitive grip and handling experience. Nonetheless as hands and motor skills grow, Chameleon can be handled just as a normal paintbrush. Even thin, accurate lines are possible by tilting the device.

What is special?

When Chameleons tip is moved over any surface, the color of this surface is detected and the ‘bristles’ are lit accordingly, just as the bristles of a real paintbrush would hold color. Simultaneously the color value is sent to the tablet making drawing on the screen with this color possible. Chameleon aims to provide a gradual adjustment to virtual content through setting a constant refocus on the real world. Apart from the general approach of connecting the virtual app part with a real, non-virtual toy, this is achieved through the search for colors. This way the game on screen is actively extended into the child’s surrounding, taking attention away from the screen and the child out of the virtual content. At the same time a layer of active handling and movement is added to the otherwise rather dull use of the touchscreen resulting in a more complex and sensory experience.

What is new?

The idea of incorporating analogue real world objects into tablet games is not completely new, though the amount of available products is quite limited and mostly aimed at older users. In addition some of these concepts only add a toy piece while the game itself stays more or less a pure virtual experience. In some cases these games can even be played without using the hardware. Chameleon on the other hand completely relies on the hardware while a multitude of different games and educational apps adding various pedagogical aspects are possible, going way further than just plane drawing.