The first African Robots prototype is a mechanical starling, a common urban bird in Cape Town. Running on a Nokia phone battery, it incorporates a sound-synthesizer whose pitch depends on light exposure, glowing LED eyes, and head and wing movement via a cheap hacked motor and handmade gear. It was exhibited at Design Indaba in Cape Town from 28 February – 2 March 2014 on ThingKing’s Maker Library Network stand, and in the traveling Maker Library exhibition in the UK later in 2014.
Starling 1.0 was made with the assistance of Henrik Nieratschker, a Masters student in Design Interactions at Royal College of Art, London, and wire artist Dube Chipangara.
A second version, Starling 1.1, is on exhibition at the Vitra Design Museum, as part of the Maker Library Network exhibition. It uses a hacked mp3 player for sound, and incorporates a transparent removable back panel. It was made with the assistance of wire artist Bongani Matinde, and electronic engineer Daan de Beer. Photograph courtesy of British Council.
The third version, Starling 1.2, was exhibited at MachinesRoom in August 2015 as a work in progress, and will be shown in Cape Town in January 2016. It uses a ‘scotch yoke’ to transfer the rotary movement of the servo motor to linear motion to drive the wings, and derives its sound from a hacked bird toy. It was made with the assistance of wire artist Bongani Matinde. I’ve been posting videos of it on Instagram under the tag #starling1_2