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Draw remotely with your phone

What is drawmote?

drawmote is a browser app that allows you to use your phone as an input device to point at and draw on your computer screen. It works by establishing a WebRTC connection between a phone and computer, using the phone's gyroscope to calculate where the phone is pointing at on the screen and simulating mouse movement to draw on a canvas.

How it's built

Some of the things used to build drawmote:

Frameworks and libraries

  • Vue.js
    as the JavaScript framework
  • simple-peer
    to establish a WebRTC connection
  • gyronorm
    for cross-browser reading of a gyroscope

Custom libraries

During the development of drawmote some functionality has been extracted to separate repositories and libraries:

Name Description Demo
peersox Client and server to generate pairing codes and hashes, establish WebRTC data connection and WebSocket server as a fallback.
Vuetamin Combine animation loops from multiple components into a single requestAnimationFrame loop and provide a consistent state.
lazy-brush Smooth drawing by pulling the brush with a rope connected to the brush and pointer Demo
catenary-curve Calculate and draw a cantary curve on a canvas Demo
gymote Easy way to use a phone as a remote pointing device for a desktop screen.
gyro-plane Using alpha and beta angles from a gyroscope, calculate where its pointing at on a screen


The app has been fundamentally changed and refactored several times during development. It started out as a hacky VanillaJS proof-of-concept, then got refactored into an OOP-style codebase (horrible!). After that, a complete rewrite using Vue.js happened. At first Vuex was used as a way to store and share data. Pretty soon it was clear that this increases the latency from gyroscope to canvas draw. So I switched to an event-based approach, with an event bus notifying components about new orientation data from the gyroscope. That worked quite well, but was still measurably introducing a lag.

How low latency was achieved

Until quite late in the project, every component had its own animation loop using requestAnimationFrame. In total there were 7 loops running at the same time. The problem was that these loops ran at different speeds, had different states and sometimes were interfering with each other. The solution was to completely remove Vuex and manage state manually. A Vue plugin was created that allows for every component to define an animation function. The plugin (called Vuetamin) takes all these functions and runs them in a single requestAnimationFrame loop.

With this approach, the time passing from when new orientation data is received and when the last draw function has been done, is on average just 8ms, which is not really noticeable. If phone and desktop are in the same network, the total delay from when gyroscope values are read out and the brush is moving on the screen is higher, but still not close to a range where drawing becomes annoying. Even when both devices are in seprate networks with good network connetions, it's still useable.

After a few seconds, our brains can compensate easily for the delay introduced between what the hand is doing and what the eyes are seeing.

Run locally

You need both the client and drawmote-server to run it locally.

Install dependencies for the client:

npm install


Since iOS 12.2 it is required to request permission to access the DeviceMotionEvent. For this to work the connection can not be insecure and thus https is required. To get the certificates needed, follow this tutorial and put the files in ./cert.

Start drawmote-server and set the IP address of the server in .env.development. Then you can start running development mode for the client:

npm run serve