“Dr. Mesmer” ~ automaton
YEAR: 2003 – updated 2021
SIZE: 24 x 12 x 12 inches
MEDIUM: Mixed media
MATERIALS: Servo motors, electronics, brass, wood. Resin, epoxy clay, wool crêpe hair, glass eyes, fabrics.
MOVEMENT: “The Dr.” moves head side-to-side observing his audience, slowly pushing/pulling the lever of the Hypno-machine. Lights begin pulsating while his right hand simultaneously turns the hand crank causing the Hypnodisc to spin as “The Dr.” attempts to mesmerize unwitting victims. 3:38 duration.
Movement is programmed and recorded using Pololu Micro Maestro servo control software. Each servo channel frame animation is saved with ease/in-ease-out motion creating the servo movement: head forward/ back/side to side, hand crank lever push/pull activates pulsating lights, and spins Hypnodisc.
For the last few years, I have been experimenting with servo electronics to move figurative sculptures in a lifelike manner. Recently, we have been using Pololu Micro Maestro USB Servo Controllers along with the Maestro Servo Controller software, which allows me to define a wide range of motion and duration for each servo movement, then save each motion in the Micro Maestro servo and replay it any number of times. The servomotors, programmed at different forward and reverse speeds, alone or in unison, create the effect of an animatronic figure. By having the ability to program the automaton’s movements, we can work out the motions and finesse the mechanical design before machining the parts, which saves a considerable amount of time. Moreover, we are able to change the movements of the prototype without completely redesigning the mechanism, giving creative freedom without technical limitations.