How to Build an Android: The True Story of Philip K. Dick's Robotic Resurrection, by David F. Dufty is about the creation of the Philip K. Dick android head, and how it vanished.
Two people are chiefly responsible for making the Philip K. Dick android head: David Hanson, a sculptor/animatronic artist who makes lifelike rubber heads, and Andrew Olney, a software engineer who worked on natural language tutorial software. They teamed up at the University of Memphis, and with barebones funding, they built a robot head that looked like the late science fiction writer. The head had a plastic skull (made on a 3D printer). Motors, pulleys, and wires were attached to the skull, and to a special rubber that Hanson had formulated called "frubber," which mimicked the elastic properties of human skin. Face recognition software and a camera mounted on the robot gave the PKD android the ability to lock eyes with humans it conversed with.
To give the android the gift of gab, Olney uploaded a massive database of PKD's novels and interviews into a databased, which indexed the content. When a person spoke with the android, one of its multiple computers translated the speech into text. Another computer queried the database and synthesized something for the PKD android to say. Another computer controlled the android's frubber face as it recited the words.
Dufty does fine job of on-the-ground storytelling, presenting the late night coding and soldering sessions, mad-scrambles to meet deadlines, small and major victories, and petty bureaucratic hassles that Hanson, Olnet, and their colleagues experienced over the course of a couple of years.
Many people familiar with the PKD head know that it disappeared after Hanson left it in the overhead bin on a flight he was on, and forgot all about it until he was out of the airport. When he remembered and contacted the airline, the head was gone. It has never been recovered.
Buy How to Build an Android: The True Story of Philip K. Dick's Robotic Resurrection on Amazon
Read other Boing Boing posts about the PKD android head
Larry Murdock just returned a library book that he checked out from the Linton, Indiana Public Library in 1956, when he was just 8 years old. The book is “Moths of the Limberlost.” Murdock is now a Purdue University professor of entomology who specializes in the study of moths. He said the book turned up […]
Roald Dahl spent the last of his days in a special armchair that he modded to help him with back pain from a WWII injury; now, in honour of the Dinner at the Twits interactive theatre events, the craft 40FT Brewery has swabbed some yeast from Dahl’s chair and cultured it to brew Mr. Twit’s […]
Brian Wood’s Starve, Volume One (collecting issues 1-5) was the best, meanest new graphic novel debut since Transmetropolitan; now, with Starve, Volume Two (issues 6-10), Wood brings the story in for a conclusion that is triumphant and wicked and eminently satisfying, without being pat.
If you’re like us, you occasionally get ambitious with your dinner and try to cook multiple sides plus a main dish. These efforts usually end as a cold meal plus a pile of dishes to wash. MasterPan Multi-Sectional Meal Skillet makes it super easy to make multiple dishes at once without the hassle. This heavy gauge bottom pan […]
The Lytro Illum is our all-time best-selling camera and here’s our best deal yet. Apply the code “Lytro10” to save an extra 10% off on this camera’s mind-blowing functionality in this exclusive one day only sale.
If you’re looking to earn a top salary in the tech industry, there’s no better career than coding. However, sometimes the hardest part of entering this career path is knowing where to begin.We took the Complete Web Developer Course because it took that decision out of our hands. This course teaches beginner-friendly coding languages that will also help land an immediate […]