Suzuki Kango carved over 400 wooden parts for his senior thesis exhibition project: it uses "four magnetic stylus pens on a magnetic drawing board to mechanically write the full time every minute in 24-hour format." Read the rest
I love this hand-cranked shell game automaton, built by Per Helldorff.
And here's a flesh-and-blood shell game artist plying his trade on Westminster Bridge in London:
The person who secretly recorded him wrote on YouTube:
A few years ago, I got duped out of £20 on the Westminster Bridge, in London, by a guy doing the age-old ball in a cup trick (you know, the one with the 3 cups). The first time I tried, I was absolutely certain of the location of the ball - only to be fooled. However, yesterday, I was back again, and happened to scam the scammer with a little iPhone hidden cam slowmo of my own.
Watch and see how he cups the sponge ball in his small two fingers on his right hand. When the innocent contestant chooses the likely position of the ball, the fact is he'll loose every time, since the ball is under none of the three cups. A complete deception indeed!
For the reveal, you can also see how he quickly replaces the ball with his right hand just before he turns the cup over to reveal the hidden surprise.
Should he be arrested for consumer fraud, or given a medal for street magic? You decide! :-)
Swiss watchmaker Henri Maillardet created the "Ethiopian caterpillar" in 1820 (or thereabouts) for a wealthy Chinese collector. It's covered in gold and encrusted in jewels and peals. It was sold at Sotheby’s in 2010 for $415,215.
From the Oddment Emporium:
When the automaton movement is engaged, the caterpillar crawls realistically, its body moving up and down simulating the undulations of a caterpillar by means of a set of gilt-metal knurled wheels. The automata work is composed of a barrel, cam and two levers all working together to create the crawling motion.
JK Brickworks's Sisyphus automata was inspired by Disney Research's work on the "Computational Design of Mechanical Characters". Read the rest
Thomas Kuntz made this clever, Haunted Mansion-inspired organist automata with its own tiny Pepper's ghost illusion, as well as a music-box and multiple animated figures.
(Thanks, Dan!) Read the rest
Automata builder Dug North sez, "I combined my love of clocks with my affinity for wooden monsters to create this monster clock with moving eyes. The monster is made of basswood, ebony, and tagua nut. A small weight-driven German clock movement powers the eyes and clock. It is titled simply 'Monster Clock No. 1,' which implies I may be making more of these. Please do!
In 1876, a fellow named Maybrook was killed by the hammer of a chiming automaton; Jeremy Clay, author of "The Burglar Caught by a Skeleton: And Other Singular Tales from the Victorian Press," tells Maybrook's tale over at the BBC News. Read the rest
At Smithsonian, Jimmy Stamp posted a brief history of bird automata. And yes, I know that Bubo from Clash of the Titans, above, isn't real. But... Bubo! Clash of the Titans! From Smithsonian:
The earliest example (of an avian automaton) dates to 350 B.C.E. when the mathematician Archytas of Tarentum, who some credit with inventing the science of mechanics, is said to have created a mechanical wooden dove capable of flapping its wings and flying up to 200 meters, powered by some sort of compressed air or internal steam engine. Archytas’ invention is often cited as the first robot, and, in light of recent technological advancements, perhaps we could even consider it to be the first drone; the very first machine capable of autonomous flight. Very few details are actually known about the ancient mechanical dove, but it seems likely that it was connected to a cable and flew with the help of a pulley and counterweight. This early wind-up bird was chronicled a few hundred years later in the pages of a scientific text by a mathematician, Hero of Alexandria.
Dug North sez, "The book titled 'Two Odd Volumes on Magic & Automata; has been available in a printed version for a while, but is now available as a PDF. The book is offered for free from LEAFpdx, but I am sure donations would be welcome."
The Sette of Odd Volumes published two fantastic books in the early 1890s. The Sette was a club of book collectors and eccentric personalities in London. It was founded by the famed book dealer Bernard Quaritch in 1878. He collected members for his club much like he did rare editons: each had an expertise in some unusual specialty.
William Manning was a club member who gave an after dinner talk on his recollections of the great magician Robert-Houdin. When Manning was a young boy he met the great magician and befriended Robert-Houdin's sons. His 'recollections' about Robert-Houdin were later published as a small book. Reading it today, over a hundred years after the speech was originally given, one is still struck by how forward thinking Robert-Houdin was and how down to earth. He developed many famous magic acts that are still performed today. Originally trained as a clockmaker, Robert-Houdin built all his own automata and magic props. He experimented with electricity and even wired his house with clocks and alarms in the 1860s which must have seemed very magical indeed. Manning captures the spirit of his admired friend. His words make the magician seem very contemporary and even more remarkable.