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A magician friend of mine occasionally asks me to build tricks for him. I’m flattered and find this to be incredibly cool, especially after Michael Caine’s portrayal of the magician’s engineer (pronounced all French and awesome) in the movie The Prestige.

This time he wants a remote controlled ventriloquist’s jaw mask to deploy on unlucky volunteers from the audience. It’ll be the lower half of a face mask with a hinged jaw that flaps up and down. In the routine the “ventriloquist” will be offstage talking through a microphone and flapping the jaw on the “dummy” audience member via remote control.

This is my rough model of an approach I was thinking of testing. I’ll stick small servomotors at the hinges, run a battery and receiver around back (maybe a belt pack?) and use an R/C remote. We’ll probably make the mask out of very lightweight plastic, like a kid’s Halloween mask, so that the jaw can flap quickly. What other approaches can you think of?


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Comments

  1. Simon says:

    I don’t know if this helps but I just started playing with polymorph plastic. It comes and white plastic pellets that you stick in very hot water. They then turn clear and soft and they can be molded together kind of like stiff, clay. Once it cools down again it goes back to the hard, white state. You can do this over and over again apparently.

    I’ve always wanted to make a puppet like the old Thunderbird ones (with an electromagnet in the head to make the mouth work) and always assumed I would use fiberglass. Now I would use the polymorph plastic.

    Was trying to find a good site showing them but just search for “polymorph pellets” and you’ll find something.

    Simon

  2. Michael Fusion says:

    off the shelf servos are notoriously slow for human like animations, ou may want to look into actuators instead, look at the pace of the movement when someone is speaking, unless you are going to gear them up and then you have wear to worry about.

    as a magician, i know that magicians don’t like to replace things. we’re tightwads

  3. John Park says:

    Thanks for the plastic tip Simon, that stuff does look nifty.

    Michael, I was thinking about the speed issue too. I was hoping gearing might work out. Another idea I had was solenoids and rubberbands to bring the jaw shut after it gets whacked by the solenoid. That may be too loud and clackey sounding…

  4. ThatBozGuy says:

    Dont Over Engineer, remember K.I.S.S

    Place “talking bucky” in google, its a haunters friend for making ANYTHING talk and will solve your needs.

  5. George says:

    I notice this post was 2008. Have you made any to sell????I do a lot of skits and gags and I saw that “ventreloquist”with a human “dummy” I have a whole lot of fun ideas if I could get 1 or 2 of this slot jaw mouth.My email

  6. George says:

    Have you made any for sale.I do skits and gags and can see some fun things to do with this.