HOWTO make animatronic cat-ears

Karen sez, "Instructables user abetusk has designed her own animatronic cat ears." Holy awesomely cute. I mean keee-yooo-te.

I saw the demo video for the neurowear "necomimi" brain controlled cat ears and I thought they were pretty awesome. I'm just starting to learn electronics and I thought a fun project to start out would be making my own version. Sadly, I don't think I'm adept enough yet to take on making my own EEG and I don't think the EEG's that are available are very reasonably priced, so I settled for having a button input to control the cat ears.

I wanted to build something that wasn't too expensive and was easy enough to be done in a sitting or two. I picked out some cheap servo motors, some craft supplies, spent a weekend or two developing code to control the servo's from a microcontroller and after much trial and error, I built some kitty ears that I think are pretty decent.

Animatronic Cat Ears (Thanks, Karen!)


  1. People would be a lot easier for me to figure out if we all had ears like that. 

    Also, I think she just made ears of enchanting +3

  2. ugh, furries.

    the only reason this is “cute” is because you’re biased toward the girl’s looks.

    if abetusk were very overweight, unattractive, male, had a bad skin condition, et cetera, this wouldn’t be very “cute.”

    especially if s/he  were dressed as a babyfur or something of that extra-special level of furry ick.

      1. “temper tantrum?”  hardly.

        “not a furry?”  well, let’s call it “weeaboo,” then; my opinion is the same — that if the wearer weren’t “cute,” the video as a whole would be more plainly visiable as something rather sad and perhaps a bit creepy.

        1. Uhm… I’m afraid you really projecting your own problems rather than reacting to what’s actually being presented.

          Roleplaying isn’t inherently sad/creepy. There are people who go overboard and qualify for those terms, but then that’s true of all sorts of interests from bridge to stamp collecting to exercise to work.

          Nor is something cute for the sake of cuteness (and I’m talking about the idea of emotion-expressing headwear, not the wearer) inherently a bad thing. Again, it can be overdone, or done in the wrong place and at the wrong time, but that’s a separate question.

          I wouldn’t wear these in the office, except on occasions when I had justification for being silly such as birthday or Halloween. But everyone knows my totem animal is a feline, so nobody would be especially surprised if I wore them on occasion. And enough of my friends are engineering types — and pet lovers, and generally playful — that I expect the major reaction would be “neat; how does that work, how much control do you have, and do you have any tips for adapting it to…”

          If you can’t let your hair down occasionally and play, what’s the good of growing up?

          To the specific objection: Not everyone who likes occasionally roleplaying as a critter is a Furry, especially not in the pejorative sense you mean.  Some just have adopted it as a game and as a kind of shorthand for their personality.  I’ve known a fair number of people with animal nicknames, often with a few mannerisms adopted to go with those — Bear used to mime pawing the back of an ear to express comic confusion, for example.

          If you’ve had some bad experiences with folks who don’t know where to draw the line, I can understand your being gun-shy… but in this case, you really are jumping to unsupportable conclusions.

          1.  c/you really/you really are/ in previous. Apologies for the typo; comes from rewriting that a few times trying to put it politely.

          2.  (And for what it’s worth: I have no particular interest in “life, liberty, and the FurSuit of happiness”, but I do have an interest in clever costuming and amusing uses of technology, and this qualifies as both. Conversely, I’m not offended by the idea that some folks like activities I don’t; I’m more offended by folks who try to force their preferences on others.)

    1. the only reason this is “cute” is because you’re biased toward the girl’s looks.

      You’re projecting. I’m a gay man and I think it’s cute.

      1. I would hope that people (especially queer people) can escape the notion that thinking someone is cute can cross gender and sexuality. I am not gay, but I can still recognize that some guy is cute.

      2. you don’t necessarily have to be sexually drawn to her to find her “cute.”

        but it does imply a kind of looks-ism that endears you to an idea you might not otherwise as appealing were it modeled by someone “not cute.”

        famous example below.

          1. Not to mention a full-body costume.

            Not to mention  that neither mask nor costume seems particularly well done.

            Not to mention that you seem to be making assumptions about the photo which may or may not be true — I’m not interested enough in such things to have any clue about why you think this is a “famous” picture — but which the photo itself doesn’t particularly support.

            And not to mention that whether or not those assumptions are true says NOTHING about a pair of expressive cat ears.

            I’m not sure I’d say apples and cysts, but certainly apples and orangutans at the very least.

        1.  Uhm… Looks are only a tiny component of my definition of “cute”, which has much more to do with intelligence and sense of play.

          And I find the idea appealing because I could see *myself* wearing a version of it.

        1.  I’d be interested in the tentacles only because, as mentioned elsewhere, I have yet to see a really expressive tail and the solutions would probably be similar.

          Beaks ain’t my thing.

          Chromatophores, though… Make that work  and I’m _fascinated_. As would most of us be; that has a whole bunch of applications. But even if it’s only practical under very limited conditions and with a lot of support, it would make one heck of a costuming effect!

  3. Hey, just a note, I’m abetusk (the one who developed the kitty ears) and I’m male.  My lovely assistant was kind enough to model the ears and that’s who you’re seeing in the video.

    1. Sorry, we’re too busy debating if gay men can appreciate her cuteness to worry ourselves with names/facts here.  Step aside while we squabble this out.

      1. Not to mention the question of whether wearing ears makes one a “furry.” Has anyone alerted Disneyworld to this problem?

    2.  I think the only solution is for you to model them so we can then comment on how cute they are all over again.

    3. As I said over on the Instructable:  Very nicely done. Personally I’d want something just a bit more expressive, so I don’t think a single rotation would do it… and the servo noise really is a shame… but you’ve successfully matched the system that inspired it, and frankly the demo vids of that which I’ve seen suggest that “manual” control and programmed gestures is likely to produce a more accurate display of mood than the EEG/EMG pickups the fancy version was using.

      Pity the servos are so noisy, though. There must be some way to solve that, though it might require cable control and moving the servos into a pack elsewhere.

      I’ve been wishing I could figure out how to build a tail with feline levels of expressiveness at a reasonable price, for costume competition. The canine versions I’ve seen don’t have enough degrees of freedom; they curl the whole tail, which simply doesn’t correspond to how cats move.  (Never mind monkeys.)

      Random conversation at a SF convention on the way to the Masquerade. I was overtaking overtaking a young lady in feline garb, including a tail which seemed to be built around spring wire with a rather clever anchoring so it wasn’t just hanging from her posterior:

      Me: “This is going to sound awful, but I love the way your tail moves.”
      She: “Thanks! I put a lot of work into that design!”

      Context is everything.

    4. Arrogantly speaking on behalf of the community, apologies for the fact that the comments got sidetracked onto irrelevancies. Something of an endemic disease in the blogosphere; someone overreacts (or deliberately takes a position to provoke) and too many of us follow them down the rathole. I should know better by now, but there’s always the hope that it’s a Teachable Moment.

  4. From reviews I’ve read of the “necomimi”, these actually sound a lot easier to control. The EEG thing is really newtech and not terribly reliable. If I was a cute girl, I’d probably wear these. The world doesn’t need a middle-aged fat guy in cat ears. 

    1.  As a middle-aged overweight cat, I resemble that remark, sir!

      I do in fact own a cat-eared hat. It doesn’t get worn very often, admittedly.  I’m more likely to wear the promotional cap I got from Caterpillar Inc — with the logo CAT.

      What part of  “meow” didn’t you understand?

      1.  I’m a middle aged slender male and I also own a cat-eared hat, a birthday present from my niece, and wear it with pride when the whim strikes me.

    2.  “If I was a cute girl, I’d probably wear these.”

      I think that about a LOT of things. When it comes to fashion, men have very, very few things they can get away with unless they’re especially handsome or girly-looking. Siiiigh.

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