Tuesday, May 05, 2009


Don’t tase me bro karakuri ningyo

by Larry Geller

The first video below is a bit of performance art that uses an ancient technology—Japanese robotic dolls—to make a modern statement. I’ve included a few other videos as background.

There’s an ancient tradition of robotics in Japan. No transistors, no optical sensors, no batteries. In fact, usually no metal nails or metal gears were used.

And they were so cultural, while our robots are practical (like vacuuming floors, defusing bombs, or flying over and killing people). Yes, I love the old karakuri ningyo and got to see a few up close in Japan. It was clear to me why Japan was a leader not only in robotics but in all sorts of innovation. It was the melding of the technical and the cultural. Innovation wasn’t just grafted on to society for economic reasons, it had been built-in for years.

It’s good to see the technology put to use here. This one is a serious subject. It gives me an excuse (and YouTube makes it possible) to include a few karakuri ningyo clips afterwards. Most have music. Enjoy those, and please work to end the use of Tasers in this country.






I’ll wrap up with this one, which is somewhat repetitive and there’s no music. But I love the little doll tumbling down the stairs and wish they had a closeup of how that works.

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