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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?

John Edgar Park

John Edgar Park likes to make things and tell people about it. He works in CG animation at DisneyToon Studios and writes for Make, Boing Boing, and other places online and in print. You can find him at and twitter @johnedgarpark — if you like that sort of thing.

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