I am really looking forward to the new Glasgow Mini Maker Faire this year, and am planning on being there helping my good pal Kyle McAslan help other people make his synths – sure to be noisy and creative!

The projects I have been working on of late have all been rather too large for mini makerfaires sadly, so difficult to share (ie. expensive to transport and run), but great to build! I’ve been involved in exhibitions at the Edinburgh International Science Festival for two years running – last year with Be The Goalie (www.cargocollective.com/bethegoalie), and then this year with An1mal.

Be the Goalie from Geraldine Heaney on Vimeo.

An1mal is an attempt at recreating animal behaviour in an interactive exhibition, using a camera, proximity sensor, microphone, plus animatronics, puppetry and theatrical techniques. It is basically a fantastical animal (an Elevark to be precise) that responds to the viewer’s facial movements, body movements and, in theory, sounds (although that didn’t make it into the exhibition piece as it turned out). It responds with a range of emotional outbursts – various flavours of uncertainty, anger, and happiness – interspersed with bouts of feeding, grooming and sleeping.

It is currently on show as part of EISF’s ‘Existence’ exhibition at the National Museum of Scotland, until 5pm this Sunday, the 15th April. It is a collaboration between puppet maker Fergus Dunnet (http://fergus-dunnet.weebly.com) , animal behaviourist Elaine Henley (http://www.dogbehaviour.org.uk) and myself (www.000111.co.uk) .

I won’t lie, this wasn’t the quickest or easiest process of design and making I’ve been through. There were times when things progressed really rapidly, and others where things slowed to a stall. And then went into reverse for a bit. The puppet contains 9 servo motors, and the days we got up and running with those and the MiniMaestro servo controller (https://www.pololu.com/product/1352) , and things started to move, were great.

An1Mal GIF - Find & Share on GIPHY

Other days, when I was trying to wrap my head around getting face tracking working using openCV/Raspberry Pi at a useable speed for an exhibition, I could maybe have done without. But then I’ve learned a heck of a lot from it, that will hopefully be useful for something else in the future! In the video below, the wee black spot between the eyes is the Raspberry Pi camera, which is on the end of a long ribbon cable running down into the perch that the animal sits upon, containing all the computers, audio equipment, power supplies and many of the servos.

Speaking of the workings, here is a peek inside at the mechanics:

Photos by Fergus Dunnet

It was an interesting change for me to work on a project where we were actively trying to hide the inner workings of things, as I am more used to making a feature of the innards of machines. So Fergus took the lead on that, as being a theatrical designer, he is more familiar with the art of misdirection (I think its fair to say?).

Hopefully that is a small insight into this project – grab a chance to see it at the National Museum of Scotland until Sunday, and I hope to see you at Glasgow Mini Makerfaire!

Roy Mohan Shearer