robotics and animatronics

Animatronic Puppets

Puppet animatronics have been used in the entertainment industry and in live performances for some time. Animatronic control is a natural choice for puppetry for several reasons. First some puppets require more than one person to operate. Coordination between more than one person is sometimes difficult, particularly when there are communication issues. Animatronics can aid puppeteers with some control functions. For example, during a live show, controlling eye lids is important to express specific emotions. Periodic eye blinks, however, do not show any particular motion, but can add realism to a puppet. Animatronics are easily set up to control a random eye blink pattern. When eyelid control is needed to express more emotion, the animatronic control is overridden by an operator.

A second place where smart use of animatronics in puppetry is a performance where set shows are used. In this type of show, audience or live actor interaction is not important. every part of the performance is pre-timed. Puppets for this type of show can be completely pre-programmed with full automated puppet control.

There are companies such as the Character Shop and Steve Axtell's company, Axtell Expressions, offering electronically controlled puppets. Puppets like these are expensive, but provide very detailed movements. They could also be modified to operate in a pre-timed complete show. This type of application is ideal for show in a Children's Museum or other location that requires a preset show schedule.