Sarah Elizabeth Page

Spring 2016

Experiencing Pointillism

A virtual reality experience that teaches children about pointillism through a physical brushing action on an interactive canvas


Experiencing Pointillism aims to explain the process of the impressionist painting style of pointillism. Users will be immersed in a three-dimensional virtual landscape made of thousands of white spheres. As the user brushes on an interactive canvas in front of them, the spheres will gradually change colors, eventually revealing Georges Seurat's painting The Channel at Gravelines. Precedents for this project were Dreams of Dali and Birdly.

Planning sketches

My Role

I completed this project in the spring of 2016 in my Interactive Design for Museums course with Anthony Deen along with Joy Peng, Dana Avesar, Xiaoyin Cathy Sun, and Miyeon Kim. I was primarily responsible for creating the interactive canvas, but also ideated with the team and helped with Unity coding logic.

User testing the experience


We used Unity-3D to create the three-dimensional pointillism world and exported it to an Android phone and Google Cardboard. For the physical component, we hacked a USB computer keyboard to create an interactive brush and canvas. We then used a USB to mini USB adapter to plug the canvas directly into the Android phone.

View of the 3D world within Unity


To create the interactive brush and canvas, we hacked a USB computer keyboard and soldered the pins of the microcontroller inside of the keyboard to copper touch points that we glued to a canvas.

Creating the interactive canvas

We also incorporated conductive thread into a paint brush and soldered the thread to the other end of the keyboard input and it sends a keyboard letters as inputs to Unity. Each input results in a different color appearing in the virtual pointillist world inside of the Google cardboard.

Raycasting in Unity to target specific areas of the world

In Unity, we used raycasting to target specific areas of the landscape, like the the sky and the land, and populated these areas with different colored spheres that match the color and shading of those areas within the painting. We then randomized the placement and size of the spheres so they looked more like Seurat's pointillist brushstrokes.

Adding colors and shading into the world

We then added these colors on keypress and exported it to be used on an Android phone in Google Cardboard.

Further Iterations

In further iterations of this project, we'd like to add more user instruction and spend more time educating the user on Seurat's painting process. We imagine this as an audio component that would give the user more feedback and would explain what was going on along with each brushstroke.