VIDEO: How I Built A Robotic Sculpture From An 1800s Table

How I Made “The Shy Machine”: An Interactive Kinetic Light Sculpture That Moves, Learns, & Reacts

by Daric Gill

{Time-Lapse Video of Process Above}

The Shy Machine is a motion activated, sound reactive, environmentally adaptive, kinetic light sculpture. As its name would suggest, this robot is shy. The two halves of this 12-sided geometric form open and close depending on the noise levels in the environment. Vibrant lights pulse from within according to volume in the room. The insides are packed with electronic brains, lights, and sensors to make this happen. In this article, you can explore the build process from start-to-finish.

{Process Image Gallery Below}

 

"The Shy Machine": Fully opened in the Soft Volume Position. Slow undulations of rainbow light.
“The Shy Machine”: Fully opened in the Soft Volume Position. Slow undulations of rainbow light.

The combination of materials range from the newest technology to reclaimed wood that is around 130 years old. Before this series, I had no previous programming experience. The 13 pages of code that run this machine is a product of self-teaching, online tutorials, and educational Youtube videos. While I’m fairly comfortable with standard math, the knowledge required to work out such precise geometry and electrical calculations were far outside my normal reach. My intentions were to push my limits as a creator and as the year unfolded, I used those resources to educate myself on the math, the codes, and the processes needed to undertake something of this magnitude. As you can imagine it’s not been an easy road, but I’d have it no other way.

Fresh from the side of the road! An antique table and leaf extensions from the late 1800s! This will sit in my garage for 4 years before I'll know what to do with it.
Fresh from the side of the road! An antique table and leaf extensions from the late 1800s! This will sit in my garage for 4 years before I’ll know what to do with it.

Most materials were reworked or reclaimed from a myriad of sources. The warm-toned wood that makes up the 12 sides used to be a dark-stained table from the late 1800s! Wires, switches, clips, and connectors are mostly salvaged from used robotics equipment. Even the hand-made metal hardware that binds the whole thing together once lived as an access panel off an earlier interactive sculpture. Additionally, all but one piece of clear acrylic was purchased from the remnants section of my local plastics distributor. Each layer of acrylic is bolted to the wood by brackets salvaged from vintage Samsonite folding chairs from the 70s. The major electronics however, were brand new, purchased from a few of my favorite suppliers.

As you watch the video and look at the images below, you’ll notice that I go through several iterations of designs, driver boards, stepper motors, and layouts. What you’re seeing is the honest proof that I really came up with the final goal and had to truly learn what I was doing along the way. It was an exciting and deep journey through many unknowns. I’m appreciative of all the new knowledge that was born from so many trials along the way.

{To see the finished piece in action, click here}


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