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Colors Live developer explains how the SonarPen translates audio into virtual brush strokes

A bit of technical magic
by rawmeatcowboy
07 June 2020
GN Version 5.0

The Colors Live Kickstarter, which has 4 days to go as of posting, has been an absolute success. The original goal was $16k, and the funding currently sits at over $123k. It's extremely clear that Switch owners are down with the idea of an art app that includes a special pen accessory.

The Colors Live SonarPen lets you enjoy pressure-sensitive art creation on the Switch touch screen, allowing you to create some finely-detailed art. While people are sure to make some amazing things, the SonarPen in and of itself is a wonder. In an interview with the eShop Action Committee podcast, creator Jens Andersson explains how it works. The following thing was quoted by NWR...

It is a half meter cable that plugs into the audio jack, and technically it pretends to be a headset. So, in Colors, I actually plays a tone through the audio. A tone of about 8000 hertz goes through the cable to the tip of the pen. There is a resistor in there as well that dampens the tone depending on the amount of pressure that is applied to the tip of the pen. This vibration goes back to the Switch through the internal microphone of the pen, which measures the volume of the sound. That calculates the pressure used on the screen. So the touch is recorded by the screen as normal, but the pressure goes through that thing. It is an ingenious idea. It sound weird explaining it, but it really works. Elton, the person who created this is really clever and the pen works really well. The precision you get out of it is basically analogue. The levels of precision makes it feel very much like a Wacom pen. It's so cool and there are no batteries in there either. It is durable and fairly cheap to produce. Especially compared to the Apple Pen which is almost a hundred bucks. We sell the software and hardware together for 39 on the Kickstarter. It's so much fun. I've never done hardware before, so this is exciting.