The Crystal Robot Storyboard


  1. Crystal sees Robot
  2. Robot Sees crystal and turns on (vibrate or led)
  3. Crystal looks at robot and gives it commands to move
  4. Robot moves by itself seems like magic but its being controlled through mind control
  5. Robot and crystal can talk with each other we only see the machines output of this program which is led light pulses this mean that they are talking
  6. Child smiles
  7. Robot Laughs, they have maybe shared a joke (Initially I had thought that I would make the robot sad but I couldn’t find any footage of a sad telepathyish child)

Mbot Robot


I started visualizing my robot with a single servo motor just making a cardboard box go back and front. But I wanted the robot to be able to move, to go forwards and backwards. After speaking to technical help I realized that we don’t really have all the facilities at the university to go into robotics. So I ordered a Robot making kit online. My plan is to build the robot and combine its possible functions, with other functions using arduino and simple motors (like servo and vibrating motor).

The robot arrived I built it and began learning how to program it in a visual programming language used to teach kids in schools how to program called scratch. This robot uses a programming language which is based on scratch called mblock developed especially for the mblot robot. mBlock was quite easy to use and I quite quickly got the hang of it, I  did use some support from online tutorials although there were really only very few available.

My experience with mblot / scratch was good overall it took some time and every time I would set commands for the robot I would get glitches which I’m still just not sure why things with motors going in opposite directions (well motors going in opposite directions was because  they were attached wrong) but there were glitches that had to be corrected by mysefl just going back and forth, trying different commands. What was incredibly difficult about the robot was that its a relatively new software and doesn’t have that much support online, sometimes device drivers dont work on newer versions of mac os and sometimes they dont work on older versions, it took me two days to get the right driver on the school computers so that I could connect the robot to the machine through usb. I eventually found github instructions which told me to over write default mac settings in terminal through the computer auto recovery mode! Would not have been possible without our sessions with Gareth where we learned what terminal is. I ended up setting commands for the robot for a video that I would shoot to explain my idea. The robot was connected to my computer through blue tooth and different if key (button) pressed statements controlled the robot.

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I started experimenting with a few commands and the code for the end result became more complex (I hope)

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I wanted to use a vibration motor attached to the head of the robot to show laughter, the robot can laugh with the crystal children, the vibrating motor was a little tricky to solder but I managed to get it working using arduino and a button pin. But once the motor was attached to the head it wasn’t powerful enough to make the head shake. I tried getting a similar effect using a servo motor but it was just looking clumsy, so I programmed a quick back and front motion with the robots commands to make it look like the robot is laughing in the final video.



Crystal Children: Some Context


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This text is from, Virtue, Doreen, (2012) The Crystal Children, p 38 -56

These excerpts discuss an actual problem that I could work with for my tribe. Crystal children have trouble are late talkers.

This causes parents such as Penny in the above text concern and embarrassment, she feels like something is wrong with her kids

Some parents think that maybe their child has trouble with hearing or perhaps trouble with cognition and understanding

Crystal Children particularly when they are older feel isolated and different from others they are lonely

Their abilities can be developed or squelched


Social thing the Output – Robot Friend of Crystal Children

My thoughts at this point are to create a robot a friend of crystal children. This device can only be used by crystals it senses their presence and only turns on in the presence of a Crystal Child. Crystal children can give the robot commands through mind to mind communication no visible action takes place the robot only mysteriously carries out these crystal childs commands.  And can have mind to mind conversations with the crystal child which we can only see as an output of a machine performing a function. This is because its important for this fictional object to be for the crystal children and not as a tool for translating the crystal child. The robot will also display emotional responses to the child it can feel what the crystal child is feeling and in doing so the child and robot build a bond.

These functions of the Robot will allow parents to see that their children are special, can understand and communicate (since they give tasks to the robot).

And also the robot helps the kids feel supported in their special needs, further develop their skills and is a friend to them in a world where maybe not many would be able to understand why they are the way they are.


Making the Robot Laugh

I want to attach a vibration motor to the head of the robot. This will be the robots emotional response. It will make it seem as though the robot is laughing.

Bellow is a vibrating motor that was purchased from amazon it it was a bit tricky to use cause the wires are a bit short and needed some soldering. It also needed this orange thing which adjusts voltage as this motor wont work with the power supplied just from the arduino. Had some help from Gareth and run two different codes to this one which just vibrates, and one which vibrates but is controlled with a button.



Getting Started with Electronics

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I began visualizing this robot by using a servo and some cardboard, the servo would move the cardboard box to different degrees and this would mean that its saying something.

I used the bellow code from Tom’s presentation and this was sort of a first step into looking at arduino really on my own because previously I had worked always in a group and sort of stayed in the background and observed things being put together.

I found from problem solving and getting this simple motor to work that things are a lot easier than they look all those wires coming out of Arduinos look more complicated than they are. Its really just a bunch of simple commands put together (i hope).

Social Obj Prototype

In this prototype I’ve now gotten rid of the screen, and am only using movement for communication. This friendly robot can understand crystal children through telepathy and can respond to only crystal children, the robot only comes to life in the presence on a crystal child. I was kind of inspired by the Kenya Hara’s Haptic Remote control which would go to sleep and wake up only when needed. Similarly this robot only wakes up when in presence of a crystal child.

The robot can respond to crystal children’s telepathy only through movement so my plan is to have to robot create gestures which are the robots way to communicate, this stems from my reading in crystal children developing their own sign language before they can talk.

This is what I presented at the IBM crit and got a lot feedback to think about:

1: The gestures that I have made up are around concepts that I have prescribed that kids should have, such as sadness perhaps children at the age of 3 haven’t developed sadness their feelings are maybe even more basic like hunger & thirst

2. Everyone thought the robot was a translator for the telepathic kids

3. True telepathy happens in the mind, its mind to mind communication there would be no gestures if something was truly telepathic

4. Maybe focus on the relationship between tech and magic

5. Maybe drop the telepathy thing its not solvable and difficult to workout

Prototype 1

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This is a robot machine which can communicate with crystal children. Among other traits crystal children are telepathic at an early age and don’t learn to talk until they are much older (usually around 3 1/2) This machine responds only to crystal children, it knows when they are around and automatically turns on (gets activated with a small shake of it head when in the presence of a crystal child) The fictional part of this object: The machine uses a sensor which can pick up on heart rate and can respond to the childs emotional state, the child can talk to the machine with its telepathy and the machine responds with an output of graphics on it screen. I want to use a heart rate sensor, because in the conventional hard science the brain is the key command organ which sends info to the rest of the body… In the spirit sciences the heart plays a much bigger role than just pumping blood. The heart sends messages to the brain. There is also a video attached to my email which is, an example of the sort of response I could create from the machine… This piece of generative art in processing is a modified version of something Min and I were experimenting with for the V&A project. The graphic on the screen changes direction in accordance to the movement of the mouse, it could in this project change direction depending on heart rate.

Primary Research on Indigo Kids

I spoke to someone who told me that when he was a child he was often told he was an indigo child. He had always been a bit different and growing up was tough.

He mentioned that on a day to day basis he experienced great sensory overload, he was also had a unique type of color blindness. He didn’t only see a red sofa as maybe another color, he saw every color within the red sofa. This caused for great sensory overload.

He has always had a complex and technical mind perhaps much ahead of his age when he was younger. He always wanted to know why things were how they were and how they got that way. Was very analytical at a young age, this made it difficult for him to fit in and made him feel isolated.

He also had trouble with communication, trouble with emotions not knowing what emotions are relevant to what situations. Emotional responses were thought through.
Although he may have often seemed blank on the outside but had many conflicting feelings on the inside.

As a child he had a lot of feelings of being isolated and trouble with fitting in with other kids.