Dancing automaton powered by falling sand

Fun & Games Robotics

Although the “look” of this dancing-girl automaton by English toymaker Ron Fuller is not personally to my taste, I could not resist the fact that it is powered by a stream of falling sand, which is a trick I’ve never seen before. Thanks to YouTuber greninmotion for the video. [via The Automata / Automaton Blog]

10 thoughts on “Dancing automaton powered by falling sand

  1. Simon says:

    Is there a link somewhere that shows the mechanism I am missing? It mentions it uses falling sand but doesn’t show it. So it’s a trick you still haven’t ‘seen’ :)

    I thought at first the automaton was playing the sound too but is is just on the video right?

    1. Pocket-Sized says:

      I was wondering the exact same thing. I always like to draw the mechanics involved in such strange contraptions in my notebook.
      I found a video of a similar sand toy (by Ron Fuller) here. Along with a video of the mechanics: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gmL9YWq85No

    2. jeff-o says:

      I suspect the mechanism uses some sort of waterwheel, but perhaps it’s more clever than that…

      1. Dug North says:

        You and Pocket-Sized are right on the mark. This technique of using a hopper full of sand to power a water-wheel-like device has been used in automata for hundreds of years. Sometimes the sand it caught in a tray so it can be easily fed back into the hopper without the need to turn it over to reload. I once had the pleasure of operating an automaton from the 1700s that used this principle.

        Right, the music was added to the video. This automaton doesn’t have any musical element built in.


        -Dug North

  2. Simon says:

    I thought I posted this yesterday but it didn’t show up. I found this about one of the old automatons someone found and restored. It is indeed a little paddle wheel type thing.


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I am descended from 5,000 generations of tool-using primates. Also, I went to college and stuff. I am a long-time contributor to MAKE magazine and makezine.com. My work has also appeared in ReadyMade, c't – Magazin für Computertechnik, and The Wall Street Journal.

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