Archive for March, 2011


Id machine: Development of Kinetic sculpture part 3

Ok, the first design twisted when moving, which altered the balance of weight.  This plan should be more stable and overall better engineered, with the help of Master Bodger, Liam

movement action Id machine

fitting metal plates

Side view, mechanism on plinth

Back view, mechanism, plinth

Back view, mechanism and weighting

New version of pivot point. better control and stability achieved

Control arms, threaded through guide

What I need to do now is:

  • Adjust pivot point so structure is more stable, movement is smoother and position of horn is optimal
  • Confirm suspicion of only being able to control a single servo at a time, will this create a jittered movement? If the servo speed is fast enough will this be noticeable?
  • (Software) Ensure that Blob detection patch can be connected with Phidget patch

Id machine: character and movement

While working on the mechanism of Id Machine, a classmate of mine Elliot Trent mentioned that the combination of motion and shape reminded him of Pixar‘s mascot – Luxo Jr.

The similarities had not struck me before, but thinking about it and rewatching Luxo J.r. I can see how the form suggests intention and focus (the coned head and light) and how easy it is to anthropromorphise the object with it’s very clear series of joints. The Luxo lamp is a visualy dynamic, mechanical object, as an audience we expect that we know how it works and what it’s capabilities and limitations are without conscious critical analysis. We ‘get it’ in terms of physicality without trying. What Pixar applied ontop of this was a sense of character and narrative in order to engage the viewer. It’s interesting to think how and why we suspend our disbelief of certain characters, this suspension of disbelief is something I need to fully suceed in my project. Although my project involves new media practise, I respect the power of traditional storytelling and narrative devices…in then end, they cause audiences to connect with artwork on a deeper level…perhaps I can learn a thing or two from these anthropomorphic creatures

As my search continued I came across an animatronic version of the Luxo character, there is something genuinely satisfying about watching the inanimate animate. How can I imbue my work with this level of charisma? can I find a way of expressing the Id in action, will manipulating the way Id machine moves act as a strong enough example…or will I need a subtle mixture of elements working off of one another?

Continuing my research I came across an entire field of work that could inform my project ‘Autonomatronics‘ is a more sophisticated version of Disney’s Aduio-animatronics. Basically robotic systems used to entertain in theme parks but these machines now interact with stimuli in their environment, rather than simply working off of a preset routine. This is a progression of the ‘Imagineering‘ campaign started by Disney in 1952.

Here you can see the basic principle of audience interaction taking place. This is surely Disney’s thoughts on the future of animated interaction and entertainment. This is a route I could take, or a way to compliment my Scientific and Theoretical work, or simply a movement I should be aware of with my practice. I need to think carefully if i were to deal with such large organisations…but anyway, one last thought on Pixar’s Luxo Jr…

In terms of symbolism there’s suggestion that Luxo Jr was designed as a metaphor for Pixar’s situation and relationship with Disney. But more importantly I think Pixar wants to get across the attitude of the desire to take on bigger things, of course in terms of branding this image…this persona has stuck, it would be ignorant to assume this was not intentional. I’m sure I could delve deeper in terms of the psychological relationship between the two animated luxo lamps. but I think I’ll save that for another time, for now I will step back and take some inspiration from a pioneering organisation of my time. Will Id machine become an icon of my work…of my ethos?…we’ll have to see


Id machine project timeline update


On reflection of my progress so far, I can see my continuing bias toward Research. I can also see the discrepancy in software development and peer review. I am sourcing tutoring expertise in order to combat software design. But I’m finding it difficult to gain a broad peer review result. When I have a full prototype I will oppose this through use of a series of guided questionnaires.


Id machine: development of kinetic sculpture part 2

Reinforcing plinth

Fitting servo into slot


Attaching arm system with slot to allow rod pivot motion

Other servo attached to second arm for pitch motion


Second arm, other angle


Both arm systems, with servos, linked to Phidget

The basic system is in place now, there is ALOT of fiddling and fine tuning to do, the issue with this current set up is that the rod twists when rotational movement is applied. A more stable structure is required to allow rotational and pivoting movement. Adjusting weight and pivot points will solve this problem. Time for some redesign work now.



Id machine: development of kinetic sculpture

With the help of my tutor Liam Birtles I sketched and built a rough prototype for the kinetic sculpture elements of Id Machine

Essentially I needed to create a pendulum like counter balance, then I need to come up with a system (example above using servo motors and wire) that affects the dynamics of the balance in the same way a lever does as Liam said to me “it’s all about the relationship between mass and force”…Archimedes would be proud

Setting up in the workshop

Creating a plug to then create pivot point

Fitting the plug

creating arm extention with metal rod

adjusting head movement (horn)

Pivot point between plugs

version1: long metal arm leading to weights

Close up of pivot point

Head (horn) display

I’m very pleased with this approach and the fluidity of the movement so far, it’s a cliche but seeing it actually work infront of me has reignited my excitment for this project tenfold.

This has been a successful session for me, I can see that there is alot of fine tuning to be done, the head currently sits too high, I’m not sure of the best placement for the weights and the appearance of the moving parts needs to suit the vintage aesthetic closely. But overall I am happy with my progress.

Now what I need to do is to learn how to control the movement with motors and decide on a ‘behavior’ pattern for the movement itself.





Id machine: Recording sound tests

I started a series of tests to determine the frequency range I should use for my project

After the previous crit I realised that I needed to exclusively use live test subjects as other audio input may suffer from compression issues. So I began with testing my own voice

it seemed that my natural talking voice range was between 50-55 (using the figures on the Y aixs on the MAX/MSP patch)

I then recorded natural conversation, I set my patch running recording input from three unkowing male test subject, I watched the variation in pitch and noted down the highest and lowest data entries in terms of frequency, I then made an average of this number.

I then moved onto testing another male subject

Again the pitch range of this subjects natural voice was from 50-55

I then moved onto female test subjects

The range from this subjects natural talking tone was 55-60, my next subject also produced this natural talking range. These test recordings were providing surprisingly small ranges in pitch. So I asked my subjects to increase their vocal range by singing playfully.

This recording gave me a high pitch range of 85 and a low end of 55

I then began recording vocal sessions with Spectogram imagery to gain better understand the relationship of  amplitude and frequency

Through the above recording I was able to break the patch barrier of 90, as unlikely and extreme as this is, in my final incarnation of Id machine I will need to compensate for these sort of results

It was interesting to see just how much ‘noise’ there was inherent in each recording, the acoustic qualities of the rooms I used directly reflects the exhibiting space I will be using for this project. So I made need to make adjustments (e.g. Low pass filter) to ensure my audio recordings clearly represent a human voice and no other input.

From these tests I have decided on the Pitch range that I will select for my system to recognise 45-65 (REF: MAX/MSP patch)

Now I am at a point, in which my patch outputs data in terms of frequency. I now need to create a category system and a decision equation to have the software developed.

Also I have realised that although the microphone I was using looked the part, it was not particularly sensitive and that it’s possible that my results may be effected by a frequency bias. I’m considering how I will adapt to this scenario and gain more accurate recordings.


Id machine: Kinetic Mechanics sketch

Sketching some initial ideas that came out of a talk with Liam in terms of how the physical mechanisms will work

Through this process I highlighted some key questions to be resolved. Importantly a question I hadn’t considered properly before, What are the characteristics of the movement I want?…it’s not just about how I want the kinetic elements to move, but in what way should they move? How can I imbue this object with character?, how can I suggest life like intention the way that social robotic projects like Kismet do?. For my project, there are two elements to the mechanics

  1. Structural, actual factually practicalities of how to make it work, does it need to pivot here, can I move it in this way e.t.c.
  2. The qualities of the action/reaction scenario. In other words how will the narrative be played out, how will I show actions such as interest/dis interest?, in what way will the movement suggest the social intentions of the object? what is the emotional objective being presented in this form of Proto-conversation? What is it that I can do practically, that will allow the viewer to anthropomorphize this object and suspend their disbelief in order to take part in the scenario presented to them?

I have begun to answer this second question with my previous intention for this object, that is to represent one of the elements that make up the human psyche, the Id.

“The Id is a reservoir of need-gratification impulses such as primitive instinctual drives of sexuality, aggression, and hunger”-link

I want the object to well….be cheeky, to purposely be a little abrasive and difficult to get on with. The irrational childish and cartoon like nature of the Id informs how I want this object to behave, this behavior will largely be reflected in movement. I want the object to play with the participant, to seemingly get bored and lose focus, to interrupt…to suddenly burst into a reaction only to drift off afterward. The point of this personality (if you will) is to suggest intention, more importantly playful intention as a behavioral characteristic. This is designed to provoke a sense of curiosity and a more playful response in the participant, this in turn will lead the person to spend more time with Id Machine and to a degree a form of emotional bonding will be enacted.

The Id is a provocative, primal and evocative element to the make up of a personality and acts as a powerful driving force in terms of structural narrative devises, this connection between psychology and narrative is an area I will explore further in the future with more research. The Id is a complex element of the subconscious and I will need to spend alot of time to understand it’s inner workings and consequences.

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