Meet the Maker: Vanessa the Robot, a Piano-Playing Animatronic Puppet #makerfaire

Meet another of our favorite projects seen at Maker Faire Bay Area in 2023: Vanessa the Robot.

Vanessa is an animatronic muppet-style puppet who sings soulful torch songs from the 80s and 90s while playing a small piano. Her movements are amazingly good — as she moves her hands along the keys and sways her mouth and head to the music, the viewer gets pulled in and captivated by the emotion of the song.

Ben Howard, the creator and mastermind behind Vanessa the Robot, used six servos and motion-capture software to create the movements of the puppet and piano. The piece is full of delightful surprise effects, with LED lights and spotlights amplifying the high points of the song, and a piano lid that can be raised and lowered to heighten the experience of the viewer. I was really amazed at the lifelike movement he was able to achieve. Vanessa really seems to throw her heart into each performance. Howard has created a lifelike, lovable character who manages to reach out and squeeze our hearts through a fabulous melding of technology and emotion.

Learn more at Ben’s website: https://www.benjaamin.com/vanessa-the-robot


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