The true-form and community of ‘puppetry arts’ may not be as mainstream as it deserves, but a recent fusion with modern-tech might just be the jumpstart the medium needs to reach a broader audience.
Fritz is a new robotic puppet, once that hopes to achieve a larger production through the use of Kickstarter. Now we all know that Kickstarter is an amazing tool for designers, developers and creative audiences to promote and support each other. Although not every product deserves a spotlight, this unique interface aimed at both children and adults certainly does.
Robotic animatrons have come along way since the dancing bears, talking Abe Lincolns and Teddy Ruxspins of my childhood, though I would imagine their captivating power on chldren’s imagination hasn’t diminished with their aging technology.
‘Fritz’ is fully customizable, seems easy to use and offers a wealth of imaginary possibilites for users to enjoy. Not only does Fritz come with standard features, the central-idea behind the software will allow users to make Fritz into any character, with new functions added in, that they can dream up.
The developers talk about the basic functions that Fritz can serve for anyone who may not be that technically inclined to start a new project. The developers state, “Fritz can talk to Trick-or-treaters, or scare them into dropping those pillowcases and collect the loot for yourself” for just one simple example of using Fritz in its basic form.
The practical uses go so much further beyond that. Teachers can use Fritz to help children create characters, or tell stories. By doing this, those children could learn about the emotional and physical characteristics of themselves, by having to replicate them on a robot. Creating a character in any medium requires quite a bit of introspection and observation, two key scientific studies of human behavior that every child should learn in my opinion.
Outside of these simple uses, advanced users can easily progress their work in robotics and human interaction with such robots. The software used and the Arduino firmware which comes installed, will be open source and can be modified by the user. The developers at XYZbot have created a Windows application to help control Fritz, which will support mouse, keystrokes, joystick or game controllers. The software is open source though, so a possible Kinnect function could be implemented by the right user.
By recording a series of actions or controls, you can then play them back in sequence to really get Fritz coming to life. There is even a simple “Text to Speech feature” which will have Fritz both speaking, and moving his jaw and mouth accordingly. If the project reaches its goal, the development team aims to publish “all the design files, both hardware and software, so you can build one yourself if you have access to a laser cutter and/or a 3D printer”. Making an entire cast of Fritz available to the world.
The developers state that “no robotics experience required” to control or assemble Fritz. Though I imagine having some knowledge of the field will help you move Fritz to the next level of mimicry before anyone else does. The project is recommended for ages 12 and above needing only a small Phillips head screwdriver, needle-nose pliers, and glue.
Fritz’s use and future abilities inspire creativity, not just being creative in itself. It’s practical and theatrical possibilites, and it’s accessibility to children, make it stand out on Kickstarter. You can check out the official Kickstarter project on the developer’s funding page below for more details, images and screens.
more info: kickstarter