ETH Zurich engineers demonstrated a system enabling a robot to control a marionette. Although a robotic puppeteer is pretty damn cool, that's not the point of the research.
"Our long term goal is to enable robots to manipulate various types of complex physical systems – clothing, soft parcels in warehouses or stores, flexible sheets and cables in hospitals or on construction sites, plush toys or bedding in our homes, etc – as skillfully as humans do," they write in their technical paper. "We believe the technical framework we have set up for robotic puppeteering will also prove useful in beginning to address this very important grand-challenge."
(via IEEE Spectrum)
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In Bermuda, the enchanting Crystal Caves attract tourists with their huge stalactites and stalagmites above the clear water pools. As a child, Michael K. Frith frequently visited the caves and never forgot their weird, otherworldly beauty. Those caves would eventually inspire Frith, working with puppeteer Jim Henson, to co-create Fraggle Rock, a beloved muppet TV series that premiered in 1983. From Jennifer Nalewicki's lovely piece about Frith and the Crystal Caves in Smithsonian:
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...It wasn’t simply the caves themselves that inspired Frith; it was also the way they were discovered. During the last Ice Age, roughly 1.6 million years ago, the Crystal Caves formed as a result of rainwater eroding the surrounding limestone, but they remained unknown to Bermudians up until 1907, when Carl Gibbons and Edgar Hollis, two local boys, accidentally discovered them. As the story goes, during a game of cricket their ball rolled next to a small crevice that was emitting warm gusts of air. Curious, the duo began digging with their hands, dropping a rock through the narrow opening to see how far down the hole went. Hearing a "plink," Gibbons ran the short distance home and grabbed a crowbar and a kerosene lamp, and they continued digging only to find a subterranean world beneath them....
“The thing that got me about the story [of their discovery] is the idea that these kids were suddenly in a place where no human being had ever been before,” says Frith, who is now retired. “I always felt that must have been an astonishing thing to be standing there with a flashlight and tracing its beam and hitting the stalactites, stalagmites and the glitter of the water running down them.
Bert and Ernie made headlines today after Mark Saltzman, who wrote for the show for 14 years starting in 1984, said in Queerty interview: "I always felt that without a huge agenda, when I was writing Bert and Ernie, they were [gay]." Read the rest
Unusualist Raymond Crowe has created something really special with his hand shadow puppet performance of Louis Armstrong's 1967 hit "What a Wonderful World." In this video, the Australian-born entertainer is presenting his now-signature piece in front of Queen Elizabeth at the 2007 Royal Variety Performance.
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Using common objects like socks, tennis balls, wooden spoons, and even potatoes, Jim Henson and his assistant Don Sahlin show children how to make basic puppets and bring them to "life" in the 1969 Iowa Public Television show, "Volume See."
Previously: These over-the-top Muppets shoes are downright inspired
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It's hard to describe this video, posted by Dan Cole, but I'll try.
1. A man objects to having a camera put in his face by a videographer who is talking vicariously through a glove puppet.
2. The man adopts a doomed strategy: trying to get the camera out of his face by fastidiously keeping his face in-shot while following the camera around.
3. He argues as he does so, occasionally with the camera operator, but occasionally with the glove puppet.
It gets so good at the end I'm almost certain it's staged – but not entirely. Read the rest
This incredible finger/hand puppet is puppeteer Barnaby Dixon's latest creation. When it's in action, the glowing bug looks more like an animated Pixar character than it does a puppet. Made from light-weight form-fitting plastic, its movements are very lifelike and nimble (it can even pick things up with its delicate hands). Amazing!!
If you like this, here's another one of Dixon's brillant creations:
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The format for Scot Nery’s weekly BoobieTrap show is the wackiest I’ve ever seen. It’s vaudeville on steroids with Nery as the amped up and kooky ringmaster. The performers range from jugglers to contortionists, magicians and poets – but the first time I attended, the standout talent was a wooden dummy named Joey and his human named Karl Herlinger.
I’ve seen ventriloquist acts before, but these two had an edge that kept me thinking for days on end, and at times I forgot about who was controlling whom.
If you stop and think about it, the very idea of ventriloquism is pretty darned crazy. These performers choose to get in front of theaters full of people and have heated conversations and arguments with themselves. It’s hard enough to captivate an audience with story, dance, or musical talent when all you have to worry about is yourself, but imagine having to simultaneously play the role of two distinctly different personalities, while controlling a hidden levers that create the illusion of emotions in a wooden dummy.
The strange combination of skills that must come together to pull something like this off has to be the reason we don’t see more great ventriloquists. This is a difficult and dying art.
I’ve hung out with Karl a few times since I first saw his show and I appreciate that his abilities go far beyond controlling inanimate objects and throwing voices. There’s definitely meat on the bones here and though his lip control and manipulations are very, very good, it’s the storytelling that makes you want more. Read the rest
Fun remix of Gerry and Silvia Anderson's supermarionation classic Thunderbirds.
Thunderbird 4 would have been mine. MINE. Read the rest
Imagine a mix of modern animation and 1960s marionette show Thunderbirds and you still won't quite capture how awesome Thunderbolt Fantasy is. It's an example of glove puppetry, a form of folk art dating back centuries.
Set in an Eastern fantasy setting, Dān Fěi and her brother, guardians of a sword known as the Tiān Xíng Jiàn, are pursued by the evil Xuán Guǐ Zōng clan, who seek to obtain the sword for their master, Miè Tiān Hái. While her brother is defeated, Fěi, who possesses the sword's crossguard, manages to escape off a cliff.
The full series is on crunchyroll. Read the rest
Gus the hacker puppeteer (previously) writes, "Since The Media Show began, people have been asking us, 'What do hacking, digital literacy, and media literacy have to do with each other? I don't see the connection.'" Read the rest
Gus writes, "Remember carbon paper? You’re probably of a certain age if you can recall typing on a sandwich of two sheets of paper with a thin, grimy, black sheet between them to make copies." Read the rest
Gus writes, "When we created The Media Show (previously) decided the best way to teach about digital and media literacy was to answer the questions people were already asking Google, we didn't anticipate how bizarre some of the questions would be." Read the rest
If you're stuck in gridlock in Ljubljana, Slovenia, you might be lucky enough to be entertained by a tailgate puppet show from the Mini Teater.
"It demonstrates a true power of theater as it amuses people when being least amused - stuck in traffic jams," they write.
(via Laughing Squid) Read the rest
It's an amazing piece of video editing/lip-syncing, right up there with Sesame Street Sure Shot. Read the rest
The 1949 Airboy comic has an ad for 5 puppets: Mickey, Minnie, Donald, and Thumper... and Idiot. We'll assume Idiot is not a Disney-licensed character, though he looks a bit like their Hunchback. The same firm also sold Halloween masks: Read the rest
Gus writes, "Two of us who help produce the Hackers On Planet Earth conference and the Off The Hook radio show are starting a new season of The Media Show, our media/digital literacy show; we'd love to invite Boing Boing readers to participate in the crowdfunding and questions for our next season." Read the rest