Main menu


TikTok users love to see this guy's drawing robot messed up

featured image

Few TikTok users have escaped from @ robotsdraw’s peculiar video in the For You feed for the past few weeks.

Accounts where the robotic arm draws amazingly accurately on a piece of paper and then always spoils everything are very popular, with over 15 million likes and 250,000 followers in the app. I am. I’m coming in the last two months.

This success is a surprise to the person behind the account, San Francisco Bay Area entrepreneur and angel investor Joshua Shahter. After all, it just started as a way for him to show off his favorite hobby: tinkering with a pen plotter robot.

Joshua ShahterJoshua Shahter

If Schachter’s name sounds familiar, it may indicate age. A 48-year-old user is the founder of, an early web social bookmarking service that allows you to save your favorite websites and share them with your friends. In 2005, after selling to Yahoo !, Schachter has spent time not only consulting the HBO series, but also funding startups. Silicon valley Adviser of Walmart Labs.

Schachter’s interest in pen plotters arose from his obsession with abandoned technology. “I used to go to eBay and buy an interesting old gadget that failed and was available for less than $ 20,” he says. “I was always interested in evolutionary pathways that didn’t work.”

Schacter’s special interest was computer-controlled machining. “7 or 8 years ago, I created a whiteboard that I could use myself,” he says. He later built a machine to apply ink to paper. “I was interested in the algorithm behind this,” he says. “I learned how to do the art of procedural generation. Computers use all kinds of techniques to make different decisions.”

He moved on to collecting vintage pen plotter machines. This is basically a robot arm that draws in response to commands sent by the computer. In September 2020, he posted his first video on TikTok. In this video, the 1989 Hewlett-Packard DraftPro DXL produced a beautiful range of wavy lines, followed by dozens more videos using the same machine.

Initially, the video was a snapshot of the wider movement of the machine. A small piece of pen that depicts one of hundreds of similar shapes, accompanied by the hashtag #oddlysatisfying. But then Schachter started pivoting.

It started with a failed attempt to get the paint extruder to work. Then, in late April, Schachter posted a video of the machine creating a square of dots in a seemingly random way, adding a great deal of inefficiency to what could be a simple process. The top comment on the video is “not the most satisfying I’ve ever seen”.

“People are really emotionally involved in it,” says Schachter. “They are like:” He is trying “” — “He” is a robot — “And something like that. There was an interesting connection.”

Finally, Schachter ran into the premise of taking his explanation to the next level. Robots fail in things. “I realized that people would sympathize,” he says. “The movement of things is relevant.”

The video posted on May 5th, where the robot drew 44 perfect little circles in purple ink, then fluffed the 45th and roughly scraped the whole picture, was played 3.8 million times. @robotsdraw virtually doubled its followers overnight from 5,900 to 10,000. Comments were received, suggesting that other minor errors occurred, such as a single circle misplaced. Schachter was happy to comply with this.

The reason @robotsdraw is so popular is simple, says Jonathan Aitken, a robotics scholar at the University of Sheffield, UK. “As a human, I’m sure robots are,” he says. “When we come to see a robot, any error is a deviation from our expectations and ultimately catches our attention.”

Videos of robot dot paper rhythmic mice and dry erase markers across whiteboards also take advantage of the popularity of ASMR content online. “Shapes, sounds, and scratches on the pen cause a variety of memories,” says Schachter. I’m trying to take advantage of it. “

In May, Schachter’s video of a plotter drawing a perfect circle and line across the middle gained millions of views just by ruining the last one. “Now I have two narrative arcs that I can play with,” Schachter recalls. I started shaving both of them. “

Emotional connection

Schachter has been schticking for weeks since spending about an hour a day conceptualizing and shooting video using plotters. The author will try to load all the comments posted on the video. As your account grows in popularity, it becomes a challenge.

He also developed a kind of manifest for @ robotsdraw. “Plotters are unique to position, speed, pen color, and sound. Extrinsic means that the pen itself breaks down, ink breaks down, and paper breaks down. Emotional: Ideas are anger, love. , Pause, happiness, hesitation, frustration, various kinds of expectations and failures. “

It’s no coincidence that these emotions are many of the same that TikTok advises top creators to target in order to create successful videos.

“I’m fascinated by TikTok,” says Schachter. “I actually sent my resume twice, but received a standard rejection.” He sees an echo on the social web that helped TikTok’s pioneer, but improved by switching to short-form video. it was done. “The arc of the story, the standard format is evolving right now, that is, there is the sudden sales and democratization of those who are good at this.”

Schachter himself succeeded in discovering the great points of TikTok, which allowed him to increase the audience of @ robotsdraw. 60% are men and 55% are based in the United States. And almost everyone seems to be crazy about the features of the machine. Then it’s wrong.

“They aren’t friends with robots,” Schachter said of the audience. “They often suffer from it.”