Final Project: The Transhuman Ear _by Sunny Pu

Object: To create a pair of human ears that can transmit emotions by its movements.

Project Ideation here: Concept Essay

(*Due to the lack of time, I didn’t get to create the second ear. Therefore, so far it is just like Van Gogh – with only one ear. =v=)

Prototype and fabrication: I started with prototyping the mechanism that could make the ear rotate. At the very beginning, I placed two servos on a platform (a piece of cardboard) and let them move on two different surface dimensions. Because originally I imagined that the ears could move along two different directions, from up to down, and from back to front.

But soon I found out that the servos were not moving as what I expected. The two movements should happen based on the same pivot point, instead of two different center axises. 

Therefore, I needed to think about another more efficient structure to imitate the movements. We did a lot of research online and finally found this quite useful: Raspberry Pi Camera Pan tilt, a flexible mechanism that could rotate 360 degrees based on the center of rotation. This should theoretically solve my problem. So I started to make a similar structure out of the instruction.

The biggest issue during the assembling process was, I couldn’t find the suitable screws. I tried many materials and finally decided on the really thick metal wires. Thanks to Professor Rudy and Marcela’s great help, we cut the metal wires into pieces and tied them really tightly around the joint part so that the whole mechanism was stable. We also used glue (super glue and hot glue) to strengthen the connection.

3D printed the whole pieces…

Metal wire instead of screws…

Glue instead of screws…

Finish assembling!

The circuit

After we figured out the mechanism, I started to think about the visual presentation of ear movements and human interaction. Professor suggested that instead of using the processing slider to simply move the servos, I could use Leap Motion to control the ears with my hands’ movements, which can bring more playable interactions. ↓

 

(*Oops. The ball joint accidentally fell out… I fixed the problem later so it didn’t happen anymore…)

To make the project more complete, I decided to make a face for my ear, and also a structure to hold the face and the ear.

I “stole” a face model which was 3d printed by someone before, and I also got some magic clay… Ready to model the face…

Modeling….

Finish modeling!

Ready to paint the skin texture…

Finish Painting!

Then the last part is to put everything together! I want to show the audience the profile of the face, and the ear will be right in front of them, so that it’s easier for them to notice the ear.

The final profile look

Here is the final video: My friend Mate playing with the ear hahaha ↓

 

 

 

Máté Buddha documentation

Title of project: “Dormant Buddha”

I managed to build the mechanisms of the bird as I have planned, even though it doesn’t fully disappear into the Buddha’s body.

I switched the motion sensor to a touch sensor, which means now you have to sacrifice your own metaphorical flesh to feed the Buddha.

Att this moment the second servo that would make the Buddha shake is not working. But I added a sound component which makes the BUddha recite quotes every time the bird is fed.

The Buddha has a believable color, as well as vines all over it. The bird is ugly, but has a nest.

All in all, I think I could transfer the main ideas of this project, and it works fine on its own terms. If I were to upgrade it, I’d give a larger scale of movement to the bird, make the Buddha able to shake, and make the bird’s head prettier.

 

And the updated version of my essay:

 

As my project, I would like to create a piece of animatronics that mainly works as a piece of art. Even though I am fascinated by animatronics that serve purely an entertainment purpose, I feel like there have been many endeavors into that direction over the years, and for me there are not many limits to push, not many new directions to go to. The works of Disney studios, and film productions such as The Gremlins or The Fly have already achieved a level of quality in entertainment that could count as art, but my approach is to purely, go with an artistic sensibility. I do not mean of course that the entertainment value of animatronics is completely exhausted, I just think that as someone who’s just getting to know the field, singular, smaller artistic visions are more appropriate to start with, since probably my early pieces won’t have an audience large enough to fully utilize any entertainment value that comes from my piece.

My concept of the project is to develop a post-apocalyptic, unhuman-like environment and artefact, upon which nature, after reclaiming the place once occupied by civilization dwells. In my case it is an abandoned, half destroyed Buddha-statue that is almost hidden under a thick undergrowth and has a bird nest where its head used to be. It suggests a culture, a religion, a human tradition reclaimed, neglected, and seemingly killed by nature.

The twist of my project would be the fact that this symbol of culture is not entirely dead. When the user of the project feeds the bird that occupies the nest on top, the statue starts to tremble, as if it was about to come alive. Therefore, the statue and the bird are two different characters that live in symbiosis, instead of just one organism. Their level of connection and sepration might be debated. The conclusion is that being completely abandoned by humans might not be that fatal to this symbol, and what it represents. The twist also makes the user question her own place in the equation. Who is the onlooker that simply by feeding the bird can make this thing come alive? Is the onlooker a human, who is interacting with nature, and therefore subsequently awakes something else, something artificial? Is she someone giving a piece of sacrifice to gods?

Questions about deities and life spans of cultures have interested me ever since I read Neil Gaiman’s American Gods, and this project too deals with personifying a deity, even though it is in a very low-key manner. The main question I want to puzzle my audience with is “Is it alive?” relating to the statue. The other character, the bird simply symbolizes a natural hunger and a mission for goals no nobler than pure, basic survival.

Another artist who has influenced the aesthetics of this project is Simon Stålenhag, a painter dealing with post-apocalyptic landscapes, and the place of humans and nature in such settings. I am also influenced by seeing many artefacts from the Roman/Greek ages that have lost their exact cultural significances, and we can only see them in a damaged, corroded state for most of the time.

I believe that in our current cultural environment, the roles of nature, culture, and apocalypse are important factors that are on the minds of lots of people. I think that a project that has cultural implications could resonate with audiences, and drawing them in by means of animatronics is a great was of immersion for this project to work really well.

Assignment 6b: Concept essay _by Sunny Pu

People invented animatronics for entertainment, for imitating the life actions, and for exploring the scientific truth behind our material body. Along with the development of technology, people want to make the animatronics more and more like real living beings, and try to make their movements as accurately as possible. However, I think there are still many gaps and problems for us to fix. The biggest challenge area of the animatronics is to imitate the precise and unconscious micro-movements of live creatures. These micro-movements are so subtle and hard to catch and imitate, but they are so important in making us live and nature. Nowadays really advanced CGI can almost achieve the precisely realistic micro-movements as live creatures do. I have seen some examples. (Here is one: https://vimeo.com/80879503) And I think for animatronics if we want to extremely and precisely control a system of really heavy mechanism, there is still a long journey to go.

Going back to my final project, I am not going to make such a precise work of art, but I would like to experiment and create a tentacle mechanism which can be used to make ears move. My inspiration comes from the Disney animated characters such as Stitch and Dumbo who have a long pair of ears, and they use their ears to express their feelings. Most of the time when people talk about emotions, they always refer to the facial expressions and body movements, but few of them think about ears. Because usually they treat ears only as a medium of the audition, and mostly our ears can do not have the ability to move. (Some people can move their ears a little little bit by consciously controlling the ear muscles.) In this sense, I hope to experiment and create a pair of human-like ears that can move organically and softly like those animated characters, and use the ears to express the emotions.

I hope the mechanism can imitate the situation of happy, sad and relaxed. For example, when the person (or the subject who own the ears) feels happy and excited, the ear will move quickly up and down, little a little fan; when he feels sad and upset, the ears will point down, like what puppies often do; and when he feels relaxed and comfortable, the ears will slowly move like tentacles, free and soft.These emotions are common and universal, so it’s easy for people to recognize and distinguish them.

There are two pieces of artistic works that inspire me and help me construct the approach to achieve the result. The first one is this Necomimi Brainwave Cat Ears. By testing the person’s brainwave generated differently according to different emotions,  the person who wears the ears can move the ears with his emotions. And the other one is the tail mechanism of Zathura’s Zorgon. It’s a pretty advanced animatronics based on the tentacle mechanism, and the bionic structure works really well and it actually moves like a real dinosaur tail. I would say the idea of the brainwave cat ears are quite similar to mine because we both want the ear to become a medium of reflecting and expressing emotions. But what I concern more is to imagine how human ears would actually have the ability to express emotions. How would the ears react, and how would they move. It’s not just a pair of fluffy animal ears which extend my expression. They are our own ears. And I want my project to drive people to further ask the question: Do human necessarily need ears to express their emotions? If in the future, human ears have the ability to express their emotions, is that an evolution or degeneration?

Assignment 6c: Response to “Seeing Ourselves in Computer”

According to this article, the author argues that almost everyone attach personalities and relate emotions to the computers which can lead to more life-like interaction between human. This argument is developed from Topffer’s law that people would more or less treat any arts/human creations with a human-like face as if they were real human beings. In other words, any random drawings that we can interpret as faces will have a distinctive personality.

To be honest, I never thought this before and this is quite new to me, but I think this might be interesting to be applied to my project. However, I am not doing a human-like puppet, for my mechanism, it’ll be a little overwhelmed to add personalities to it. What I’m thinking to make this whole mechanism convey is a sense of zen so I might give a peaceful background to this whole system and also a dark blue texture to the surface so people can intuitively indicate the emotions that I want to transmit.

 

Assignment 6b: Concept Essay for the Final Project

During the research for my final project, there is a project called “Colibri” attract my eyes, which is a wooden kinetic motion sculpture that simulates the motion of a hummingbird in flight. I was really fascinated by its mechanical structure of pure gears and joints. When making animatronics and automata, people always love to hide the mechanism and only expose the zoomorphic or anthropomorphic appearance to make it more vivid and real. However, as Colibri, the neat and clean structure exposed to the audience is the best and most satisfying part. So I think there’s an interesting area of animatronics that the mechanism of the animatronics is exposed to the audience together with the appearance of the animatronics. And I really think this can only be done by animatronics instead of CGI or puppetry because the beauty of it is just the delicate realistic structure.

Inspired by the exposed mechanical structure of a project, as my final project, I’d like to create an automaton that consists of a stick that passes through 25 discs in different places and with the stick spinning these discs can move up and down that can trigger the other 25 sticks move up and down. This might sound not hard at all, however, what I am trying to achieve is to make this whole structure work smoothly and aesthetically which means I should calculate the size of each disc and place of where the stick should pass through the discs mathematically accurate. Besides, I also consider covering this whole structure with a “skin” made of silicone.

Honestly speaking, though many of the animatronics are now for educational use, it is no doubt that the major use of animatronics is still to serve purely an entertainment purpose no matter the pure artworks for exhibition or those made for the sci-fi films. However, entertainment has a very broad range that consists of tons of areas and emotions that can be expected from the audience. As my final project, I want to evoke people’s astonishment and curiosity and gradually lead people to peaceful and relaxing status by watching it work slowly but smoothly. People nowadays really step too fast and cannot have a relaxing moment to release themselves. By watching this, they will not be mentally intense anymore because they will try to keep the same pace with this mechanism that works slowly.

Though this is a mechanism instead of a character, it still has something behind to convey which is the concept of being slow but never stops. People are expected to feel relaxed from this mechanism so a contextual environment would be helpful — wave sound that is usually used in meditation and dark blue texture covering this mechanism.

Since this project was originally inspired by the project Colibri, I’ll try my best to make this project work as smoothly as Colibri does which requires a lot of calculation. I think the most difficult part is that how can I design the discs to rotate in an expected path so the sticks can move up and down in different but logical phase otherwise the whole system will look chaotic and cumbersome.

This prpject might be developed further in the future: as what I mentioned above, I hope the audience can acquire the peace and relaxation from my project, so I am considering if there’s possibility that this can be used in medical therapy that helps people who have been anxious calm down and be concentrated.

Concept Essay by Máté

As my project, I would like to create a piece of animatronics that mainly works as a piece of art. Even though I am fascinated by animatronics that serve purely an entertainment purpose, I feel like there have been many endeavors into that direction over the years, and for me there are not many limits to push, not many new directions to go to. The works of Disney studios, and film productions such as The Gremlins or The Fly have already achieved a level of quality in entertainment that could count as art, but my approach is to purely, barely go with an artistic approach.

My concept of the project is to develop a post-apocalyptic, unhuman-like environment and artefact, upon which nature, after reclaiming the place once occupied by civilization dwells. In my case it is an abandoned, half destroyed Buddha-statue that is almost hidden under a thick undergrowth and has a bird nest where its head used to be. It suggests a culture, a religion, a human tradition reclaimed, neglected, and seemingly killed by nature.

The twist of my project would be the fact that this symbol of culture is not entirely dead. When the user of the project feeds the bird that occupies the nest on top, the statue starts to tremble, as if it was about to come alive. The conclusion is that being completely abandoned by humans might not be that fatal to this symbol, and what it represents. The twist also makes the user question her own place in the equation. Who is she that simply by feeding the bird can make this thing come alive? Is she a human, who is interacting with nature, and therefore subsequently awakes something else, something artificial? Is she someone giving a piece of sacrifice to gods?

Questions about deities and life spans of cultures have interested me ever since I read Neil Gaiman’s American Gods, and this project too deals with personifying a deity, even though it is in a very low-key manner. The main question I want to puzzle my audience with is “Is it alive?” relating to the statue. The other character, the bird simply symbolizes a natural hunger and a mission for goals no nobler than pure, basic survival.

Another artist who has influenced the aesthetics of this project is Simon Stålenhag, a painter dealing with post-apocalyptic landscapes, and the place of humans and nature in such settings. I am also influenced by seeing many artefacts from the Roman/Greek ages that have lost their exact cultural significances, and we can only see them in a damaged, corroded state for most of the time.

I believe that in our current cultural environment, the roles of nature, culture, and apocalypse are important factors that are on the minds of lots of people. I think that a project that has both environmental and cultural implications could resonate with audiences, and drawing them in by means of animatronics is a great was of immersion for this project to work really well.

Assignment 6a: The environment and the way you tell it _by Sunny Pu

As an update of my final project idea, I want to make a pair of human ears which can transmit emotions by its movements. Inspired by how animals (like dogs, cats, and rabbits, etc) use their ears as an important medium to express their feelings, I hope to imagine and give human ears the same ability.

If I put my creation in a permanent exhibit, the exhibit could be about “Animal emotion and its expressions”, and the models of different animal ears would be those main displays, in the “Ear zone”. (The other zone could be about eyes, tails, mouth, etc.)

I think the environment will influence the audience. The exhibit topic and the displays of animal ears – will push the audience to link the human ears with concepts like “emotions”, “expressions”, “animal features”, which normally people won’t think about. (Usually, people treat ears as only a medium of the audition.) They might even consider the further questions: Do human necessarily need ears to express their emotions? If in the future, human ears have the ability to express their emotions, is that an evolution or degeneration?

Assignment 6a: Response to It’s the Way You Tell It

The article “It’s the Way You Tell It!” by Sue Dale Tunnicliffe describes that the animatronic creatures in exhibitions themselves, to great extent, can’t guarantee the interest of elementary school children when visiting it. Instead, what makes these animatronic creatures attracted is the context behind and a story told by each figure, otherwise, the educational value will probably not be transmitted to the students.  This is shown in the article by giving two different models – one installed in a zoo, and the other one in a museum.

So if I’m going to exhabit my creation, I’ll try to endow it with educational message that can be transmitted to the students since Tunnicliffe highlights how important the consideration of the audience is. However I’m not sure if this will be against my original idea because it was first designed just to evoke spectaotos'(expecially those who have strong passion for galaxy monsters) joy or amusement or fear(in positive way). Though this will be compared with those which have educational value, mine will be unique and probably easily accepted by the audience. As for the environment, it will be definitely be influenced by it. According to Tunnicliffe, the existence of a stage in the museum help the students get more out of the experience of the installation. For my project, I’d like my project be on a stage where are dark galaxy, shining stars, some sci-fi music and so on. However, not simply making it a monster with tentacles, I’ll try to convey a zen(emphasizing the value of meditation and intuition) idea by make this whole creation moving slowly but smoothly.

 

Assignment 6a by Máté

If my project was included in an exhibition, it would be an exhibition showing the connections between nature, culture and society. My only expectation would be for users to have an opportunity to interact with it. I plan it to be a self-contained piece of art, but of course if the conception of the exhibit would allow it, having it around more pieces that suppose the same environment (prestine, post-apocalyptic jungle) it could fit into a wider landscape of art pieces.

The additional envornment would indeed be able to reel in the viewers even deeper, but after all I think that my main goal is to make them think, to make them figure out the exact meaning of my piece.

Concept update on Final Project by Máté

I would like to stay with the birdheaded Buddha, but I would like to change the concept a bit. Here is my new sketch:

My new project is called sleeping Buddha, and this time the statue is under a handful of branches. We see a Buddha statue that has been abandonded, half-destroyed, and almost consumed by the wilderness.

I would like to suggest in this artwork a post-apocalyptic, unhuman-like state, where nature, upon reclaiming the place once occupied by civilization dwells on the dead remains. However – this Buddha, that looks broken and dead in the artwork, is not in fact dead – it is just sleeping. By making him move whenever the birds on him are being fed. I want to suggest a connection between nature and what might be manmade, might be from the gods.

The Buddha’s apparent semi-awareness and breach in slumbering whenever the user interacts with it bears with an open-ended message: if he is viewed as a man-made object, as a product of human cluture, then a human’s interaction with it in his post-apcalyptic environment means that culture is kept alive even indirectly, even when a survivor of the race can only directly interact with nature. And if it is viewed as a deity, it means that when a human gives any sacrifice to him, even when he appears to be completely forgotten, the deity has still the option to come back into existence, to reclaim his place in culture.

Materials:

  • 3D printed statue (I already have the template)
  • touch sensor at bottom
  • tube in the middle (3D-printed or otherwise)
  • umbrella servos moving the heads inside the body, outside the tube
  • one or two servos at the bottom, moving the buddha
  • branches and leaves (bigger for the coverage, smaller for the nest)
  • birdheads undecided + googly eyes