{ Brain } – beta version


Brain <beta version>

Brain is an automata that shows how the brain works when you think. Composed of handmade steel wires and knotted rope as pulley system. Brain functions in two ways:

1) Conscious –> Hand cranking the steel wheel to fluctuate the shells, and also rotating the wheels on the other face of brain.

2) Subconscious –> Using ultrasonic sensor to measure the distance, part of the brain will function automatically once the user is in position / wearing the helmet.


Exposing yourself & Taking in the unknown

The most exciting/weird experience of this project is the moment you stick your head into it. The motor above you starts moving; the vibration and sounds of the pulley system; the view you see through the wood cubes, knotted ropes, and steel wheels. It’s the mixture feelling of exposing yourself to undergo the vulnerability, and taking in the unknown to activate all your senses in the narrow space.


2D/paper –> 3D/physical

Inspired by renowned kinetic sculptor Arthur Ganson, I decided to use steel wire as the means for my Automata final project. Based on the photos and videos collecting from internet, I sketched out the shape first, and then tried to figure out how to bend the steel wire into wheel.


It’s a trial and error process, but thanks to magical Zoe Logan, I learned different pliers and jigs to make proper(at least better than free style) steel wheel. The whole journey is a little bit pain in the ass, but the result is satisfying. Beside boosting my stamina with heavy laboring, I’m glad the efforts somehow accumulating into something weird and terrifying looking.


I learned a lot from this transforming 2d ideas into 3d physical form process: the pros and cons of wire bending compare to the thick steel connected by welding; the limit of series connection the wheels with knotted ropes; the necessity of middleware of two big wheels to increase the tension.


gamma version

Multiple motors to fully construct the node system of brain on all the faces. Pill the paper off the acrylic sheets so it’d be totally transparent. Could have multiple hand crank nodes as well so it will become a cooperative “thinking” system.



Related posts

Concept Sketch, Process of Making.


{ Brain } – process of painfully crafting your idea

SO. Here’s the report of my { brain } automata making process.

First, prototype with cardboard. Laser cut 11 pieces of pentagons, and stick them together with my favorite tool – duck tapes.


And endless steel wire bending.2014-11-23 22.56.04


Laser Cut transparent 3/16″ acrylic and build into dodecahedron  with hinges and machine screws.
2014-11-30 17.00.26

And mount the motor my pulley system!


Things all sound easy but there are actually lot of painful struggling –>

  1. Pre drilling hole on small wood tube is hard. Crack easily.
  2. Rope has to be trimmed neatly or it will stuck with wires.
  3. Bad binding with wire and motor shaft. Asked magical Ben Light, ordered a shaft coupler to connect wire and DC motor.
  4. Have to relocation the motor. Should leave more space for the shaft side.
  5. Friction debugging nightmare…

SO. I’m really concerned about the possibility of finishing it before Final…. but whatever, I’ll keep working on it :DDDDD


Automata_mechanism time!

For this week’s homework, I’m interested in hand crank and cam & follower. Inspired by Arthur Ganson, I want to explore using simple mechanism to create rich emotions. Although I’m also fascinated by Jansen’s Strandbeest mechanism, I’ll leave it to next experiment and design my own cute creature 🙂

This time I chosed 3D print to fabricate since all the laser cut time slots were booked…

cam in maya

But since it’s not a complicated structure at all, the cam & follower thing will be built with wood, and I’ll use 3d print with other detailed stuff…





And now I have to make objects to place on top of the up-and-down nails! Will have certain level of mechanism too, I hope 😀

I’m just a test.


TRAF + Automata_Memory Glasses

It’s a cute but super finicky prototype. For TRAF class, I want to make a system that knows which bottle was picked up, and for how long, and for Automata class, I want to use solenoid to soundify the data that restored. The system worked but super unstable so I think it should be called as a failure but I learned a lot ‘ v ‘

The problem is the connection. Bottle is too light for pressing and closing the circuits with knots.




Sadly not enough time to test the solenoid, so here’s the test Zoe and me had in the class!

Automata_motor w/ feedback

For 2nd assignment, make something with motor and feedback. And below is what i’ve learned:

  • hack servo to read the info of its potentiometer

  • tepper motor


  • continuous servo
    • position 90 –> pause, above –> clockwise, below –> counter clockwise

  • EPROM library of Arduino
    • The microcontroller on the Arduino board has EEPROM: memory whose values are kept when the board is turned off (like a tiny hard drive). This library enables you to read and write those bytes.



And I want to keep testing stuff to make the “Pull Your Guts Out” come to live. pull the guts out


Here’s what I have so far, more to come!



For the first assignment, we have to develop an idea for a project that involves Automata.

  • Two quick studies that explore some facet of the design, experience or concept. Can be any materials or methods including software, models, mechanism mockup, etc.
  • At least one physical studies.

Because I’m still dizzy in the post-era of Maker Faire, I don’t have the whole picture about what I want to do with Automata, but I know I’m also fascinated by chain reaction, parts triggering parts sequentially in a strange and unexpected way, and I’d love to try out Whirligigs!

The idea of the project is “after finding out what your decision did to yourself and bearing all the consequences, you will be less mad about yourself from watching yourself being punished“, aka Salvation.

For the past two months, I felt I was running along the edge of the cliff. Holding all the stuff and running forward clumsily, and the deadline just kept poking me behind. And sometime it made me want to kill myself(METAPHORICALLY). And this whirligig of artist Ben Thal somehow has the healing effect on me.

I love this kind of simple movement repeat again and again and again, and it allows me to stare at it tirelessly and helps me to clear up my mind, especially the self-destruction genre.

And my first design for this concept is Stab My Face.

stab my face


Stabbing My Face

It’s also a practice of the amazing Harry T. Brown’s 507 Mechanical Movements #157. I chose it because it has a nice momentum to strike the stab, insteading of constant speed all the time.

Screen Shot 2014-10-09 at 7.20.24 PM



Ideally, it should be driven by motor instead of my clumsy fingers, and they all should be well designed and fabricated instead of taping everything on top of the shop table.

And my second design for this concept is Pull the Guts Out.

pull the guts out

It’s an automata that keeps pulling out the guts. The guts only moves when arm moves downward.

Using the same gear setup #157, girl’s arm rotates up and down. And once the arm goes down, the stick connected to it pushes the gear with teeth rotate counterclockwise, and then drag the softmateral guts rotate counterclockwise too. The tricky part is, I’m not sure about the movement when arm moves upward. Ideally the gear would just have little movement when arm moves up because of the teeth.