Bizarre Tech: robotic puppet, Moff wearable and MōFU toy
Image credit: Moff
I was in Cornwall recently, struggling to find the perfect cuddly toy: a gull with a sailor hat. Eventually, I found my Steven Seagull. I then decided to type ‘toy’ into Google. Look what I found!
Have some nightmare fuel.
I’m unsure as to whether TJ* is still a thing... it was last updated in late 2013 on Kickstarter, where it received quite a bit of financial backing for some reason, other than to scare children.
TJ* the robotic puppet is an ‘education tool’ for kids, is remote-controlled, and is a ‘tinkering platform for electronic hackers’.
The head is about three-fifths the size of a normal human noggin and made of fibreboard or coloured plastic, whatever you prefer your Chucky Doll to be.
According to TJ*’s creator Jeff Kessler, its eyes move up and down, left and right, but unfortunately not round and round, and the mouth opens and closes. The bot’s moving parts are driven by three micro servos, aka tiny motors with position control circuits built in.
On the website, dedicated to all things TJ*, it says the puppet is essentially a mechanical ‘platfom’ (that’s how they spell it) with servos, ready for electronic integration. It needs a servo controller to run, and Kessler said he developed one using Arduino, an open-source microcontroller platform, but he suggests that you can make your own. How exciting.
I’m not too sure as to whether you can actually still buy TJ*, but on the website there is a ‘Complete TJ* Kit’, which ships with ‘a brand-new Arduino Uno pre-loaded with code to run TJ* with the included puppeteer’s controller for his eyes and mouth’. Cool story, bro.
If you already have an Arduino or servo controller handy – I must have one in my drawer somewhere, you know, like those spare cables you seem to accumulate over time and then forget what the heck they were for – then an Electronic Maker’s TJ* Kit can be sent to your door and you can start controlling it all by yourself.
So, with all this jingly jangly jargon, what does TJ* do that’s so amazing apart from move his face around when you program him to?
Anything? No? Oh.
Moff wearable toy
Playtime at your wrist... tips.
I used to love me a snap/slap bracelet. This kind of thing takes me back, but it wasn’t a newfangled gizmo that turns ordinary objects and such into games. Do I sound old? I think I’m sounding old. Anyway.
For kids 5+, the Moff band connects by Bluetooth to your iOS device (it’s not available on Android yet) and you use the app to set it up.
Its name translates to ‘warm, or fuzzy feeling’. M’kay. Made in Japan, this device is made of silicone rubber and runs on a PCBCoin (CR2032) battery, which is included. Over 30 sound effects are available on the app, they’re updated every week, and parental control allows individual sounds to be hidden. For some reason. I don’t really want to think why there would be the need to control the sound effects. Ahem. Let’s hope it’s there for parents who find certain sounds annoying.
Two Moff Bands can be connected to one device and it comes in orange, pink and blue.
According to its creators, when the Moff band is put on your wrist and connects to apps wirelessly, it senses your movements and the app will analyse and respond by creating suitable sounds. The types of games you can choose from include tennis, toy swords, magical sticks (I'm guessing wands?), toy golf and airplane. You can also play guitar and piano.
I like to fold it, fold it.
Sounds like the other gadget on this list, but t’isn’t.
Inspired by the tradition of toys that transform through folding, a toymaker decided to make these chunky boys.
MōFU (Mighty Omega Folding Universe) are ‘adorably expressive, poseable animals that can be neatly folded up into matching cuboids and nestled into their resting boxes’. Sounds kind of sweet, actually.
Designer and toymaker Yoshiaki Ito (Yoshi Ito) came up with the collection, and there’s five chonky MōFU to choose from: MoNKI the Monkey, the so-called leader of the crew, with a ‘5 out of 5’ difficulty, or ‘savage’ rating; ToRA the Tiger – ‘as ferocious as they come’ for a cuboid puzzle thingy, 4/5 ‘fierce’ rating; KaBA the Hippo (apparently you gotta unfold him and let him run free... all righty) 2/5, or ‘frisky’. Frisky?! BuTA the Piggy – lazy, cute, and the smartest of the lot – her ‘main skills include wallowing and contemplating the infinite nature of the universe’. Right. Difficulty only 1/5, or ‘tame’; and KiRIN the Giraffe, who is the tallest, and she has a ‘fierce’ rating (4/5). Yaas, queen.
The creators (friends of Yoshi, they say) state that the finished toys will be made of natural wood or bright colours.
Toymaker Yoshi says the pieces are connected by elastic cords, and the flexible connection gives the animals articulated joints, but also creates many more options for poses.
I want the giraffe. She my spirit blocky animal.
Sign up to the E&T News e-mail to get great stories like this delivered to your inbox every day.