Remember the old Thunderbird TV show where all the characters were actually puppets? Those were the good days of TV. Now-a-days with modern technology everything is CGI and the art of practical effects is dying due to how realistic computer imagery has become. All the previous aside puppets still live on in the entertainment business and many of the young generation are fascinated with them. Simon Jansen has taken the humble puppet and given it a modern day touch with the help of an Arduino.
A video detailing the puppet from Simon is below.
Over the course of several years Simon was able to create a remote controllable John Steed puppet from the 60’s TV show ‘The Avengers’. The attention to detail in this build is amazing and the final product is a sight to behold.
The head of the puppet is pure fibreglass with brass mounting plates on the inside to hold the eye movement mechanism. The eye mechanism is made from a combination of aluminium and brass and the eyes themselves are created from sections of a ping pong ball. The eyes are rotated left and right with a micro servo with its horn connected to the rotating cam. The mouth is made from a modelling plastic that hardens in the oven and is moved with a small 6V solenoid.
The eyes and mouth are controlled with an Arduino compatible homemade board which also has a WAVE shield connected to it. The WAVE shield can read the TV show speech audio samples stored on the SD card and play them through a speaker. The Arduino sketch simply picks a random audio sample and plays it on command.
Extraneous limbs are controlled the conventional way which I think is good feature. The electronics however can be controlled from two wireless controllers, one handheld and the other being a watch. I can only imagine how much fun it must be to control and display to friends and family. The traditional puppet controls coupled with the modern remote control would make for some great performances.
More information can be found on his personal blog here.