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: 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.


  • 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

Assignment 5: Compare Final Project Ideas to the Readings

In the reading Animatronics, Children and Computation, the CTRLL_SPACE’s main audience is the children. The designers want to educate the children the basic knowledge of computation with the use of visual and physical programming. | However, the audience my final project targets is mostly people who have already worked since they have much more exhaustion both in spiritual and physical ways in daily life.

Similarly, CTRLL_SPACE and my final project both want to express the idea that the technology(computation/mechanical structure) we use in daily life is not that hard and actually could be fun and beautiful.

Without any doubt, CTRLL_SPACE’s participatory design methodology is really useful and import. To be honest, when I tried to write about my project idea, I didn’t understander this word methodology thoroughly. But, according to this reading, I know that“[p]articipatory design methodology by definition involves the end users in every stage of the process”. The designers of CTRL_SPACE did consider their end users — children very carefully. When they made the project, they took the children into consideration and tried to make it as user-friendly as possible. I was really inspired by this and now I’m thinking to make my project more involved with the users instead of letting them only watch it.

Reading response 5 by Máté

What I was mostly inspired in these readings relating to the goals of my project were the clearly stated objects and the amount of research that went into the concept. However, I am unable to conduct as much research, and treat my project as an artistic one, rather than one that is able to help constructing a helpful way for children to develop.

What I could relate to in the Jstor reading was the idea of “storytelling” inside a piece on animatronic, which will be essential in my project as well. I feel like whether it is art or assistive technology, a situation and a narrative are important part of the equation. I could imagine a several set of guidelines that apply to designing animatronics as art rather than children as it was presented in the same reading. I was also inspired by seeing these tecniques work in the Keepon article, that detailed meticulous research in the subject area.