80 Teddy Ruxpins with robot voices tell you how the Internet feels

Sean Hathaway stuck 80 Teddy Ruxpins on a gallery wall and hooked them up to a sentiment-analysis engine fed by a social media scraper. Snippets of emotional, throwaway text are turned into synthetic ruxpin-utterances, accompanied by emotional music:

TED is a large, wall-based installation consisting of an array of 80 Teddy Ruxpin dolls that speak emotional content gathered from the web via synthetic speech with animated mouths. The speaking of the emotional content is accompanied by one of twenty-four musical vignettes that have been paired to the emotional content being spoken. Each vignette, representing one of twenty-four subtle variants of human emotion, have been composed in such a way that the beginnings and ends of the short pieces will seamlessly dogleg in any possible configuration and stream endlessly as a unified whole. The installation is allowed to drift about freely through the emotional landscape being driven only by those who are contributing content to the piece whether unwittingly or consciously. As such the overall presentation of the piece can vary greatly based on external conditions such as seasons, world events and even time of day. The piece is essentially taking the instantaneous emotional pulse of the internet and this collective pulse, like a human pulse, varies over time.

T,E.D. (Transformations, Emotional Deconstruction) (via Make)


  1. this reminds me of the “Wall of Furbies”    It was at the bitforms gallery in NYC in 2002, the artist was Kelly Heaton.

    i believe this is an earlier version of that work: http://alumni.media.mit.edu/~kelly/Furby/MIT_RL_10_01/MIT_RL_10_01.htm

  2. Using a Teddy Ruskstin, or whatever its called, with its pre-conceived notions of psychotic tendancies, does devalues sentiments of art regardless of how securely fixed under CCTV surveilllance

  3. I find this weak.  Now, if the bears all started vomiting red Karo syrup at once while talking, that would be profound.  (no it wouldn’t, but it would be “weird” and that, I think, is the extent of this “art” installation))

  4. The first time I went on “Its a small world” I wanted to scream and tear out my eyes. I wondered what everyone else was so happy about. This reminds me of that moment.

  5. Version 2: 2 of them talk at the same time, and a score is assigned to the negativity or positivity of the message based on certain key words. A battle of sorts ensues. The winner (determined by the larger absolute value of their negative or positive) does ….. (fill in the blank)

  6. Their linked site has more technical details about the build:

    “The bears which invoke the presence of the anonymous online poster are 1980s style Teddy Ruxpin dolls that have been significantly modified for the installation. Each bear’s original circuitry has been removed and replaced with a controller board designed specifically for the installation (figure 1). These custom boards allow the centralized control computer to animate each bears eyes and mouths for lip-syncing with a pulse width modulated (PWM) signal which replaces the bears original cassette tape based tone modulation control scheme.”

    It sounded to me from the video that the synthesized voices were actually coming from a centralized speaker system and not from each Ruxpin, probably from the same computer that drives their animations. According to the article, the tweets are gathered via a data stream from the wefeelfine.org site.

    The technical build intrigues me more than what the piece says. I feel like their statement falls a bit flat and contrived, but I appreciate the technical work that went into it.

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