Automata are mechanical objects endowed with life.
March 25, 2008 10:07 PM   Subscribe

Yup. Those are nightmare fuel.
posted by Navelgazer at 10:08 PM on March 25, 2008

There's a scene towards the end of Blade Runner, where Pris sits doll-like in a room of automata. There's definitely a creepy vibe about these things, especially when they start laughing and shaking.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 10:14 PM on March 25, 2008

My wife would divorce me if I brought that harpist home. I think it's cool though (and creepy).
posted by BrotherCaine at 10:15 PM on March 25, 2008

Some of them are really quite lovely.
posted by infinitywaltz at 10:17 PM on March 25, 2008

You forgot a tag: Automatonophobia.
posted by C.Batt at 10:20 PM on March 25, 2008

Yeah, but this monkey is creepier than an army of desiccated robot harpists.
posted by infinitywaltz at 10:24 PM on March 25, 2008

wow, what a great find - fascinating yet freaky.

Put one of these heads on that damn darpa dog robot to create a technological nightmare spanning two centuries.
posted by madamjujujive at 10:38 PM on March 25, 2008

Wow those things are creepy. I kind of want one, or more specifically, ones with eyes that will follow my millionaire mentally unstable uncle who has left me as his only heir, around his creaky old house up in the woods.

also Metafilter: a technological nightmare spanning two centuries
posted by mrzarquon at 10:45 PM on March 25, 2008

Kitty wants some milk.

(I love stuff like this; thanks so much for the post.)
posted by tula at 10:49 PM on March 25, 2008

I want an automata replica of the Zuni fetish doll that tormented Karen Black in Trilogy of Terror.
posted by Tube at 10:59 PM on March 25, 2008

Yeah, but this monkey is creepier than an army of desiccated robot harpists.

posted by Bookhouse at 11:15 PM on March 25, 2008

Oh, and great post.
posted by Bookhouse at 11:16 PM on March 25, 2008

What the flag is that monkey waving?- hard to see on the clip. Texas Rangers? Texas Air National Guard? Yale?
posted by mattoxic at 11:22 PM on March 25, 2008

posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 12:56 AM on March 26, 2008 [1 favorite]

If I could have every menial task in my daily life performed by dessicated automatons, I totally would.
posted by Karlos the Jackal at 2:18 AM on March 26, 2008

I can't help but think of the bejewelled head by Lady Marie-France Tessier.
posted by mistersquid at 3:46 AM on March 26, 2008

I just piddled in my pants.
Truly spoooky post, DF!
posted by Dizzy at 4:39 AM on March 26, 2008

But, does he have an Obamaton?
posted by wabbittwax at 5:23 AM on March 26, 2008

Gagging demon cat with phantom skele-twin was my favorite.
posted by Cat Pie Hurts at 5:29 AM on March 26, 2008

Automata previously on Metafilter

That post credits Al-Jazari with the first automaton, however, the moving statutes of Byzantium are legendary, and today the credit probably goes to Hero of Alexandria (wiki), who also happened to invent the world's first steam-powered device (though technically it is not an engine).

Automata are not complex from an engineering standpoint, (though they are intricate and complicated) are realized almost exclusively with gears and linkages, with the addition of spring coils and winders in the 18th and 19th century.

While the linkage generally was not understood until the 1800's, the crank, which is a minimal linkage, was understood in the 1200's, and by then people had been experimenting with them crudely for centuries. Because the range of motion of the human body is defined by linkages, it is conceivable that cranks and linkages could have been realized in antiquity simply by duplicating the proportions and structure of the human body, and replacing the musculature with gears and pulleys, both of which we well known by the time of the ancient greeks and romans. (The pulley dating at least as far back as mesopotamia, and the gear probably shortly thereafter, as a gear constitutes a ropeless pulley). By the first century BC, the Greeks at least had developed considerable sophistication in machining and designing with gears, as represented by the Antikythera device.

Once you are possessed of knowledge of one working linkage and gears, building a complicated piece of machinery is reduced to a function of time, patience and materials.
posted by Pastabagel at 7:07 AM on March 26, 2008 [2 favorites]

I'm so fond of this kind of thing that I may have to go lie down.
posted by aramaic at 7:10 AM on March 26, 2008

I want to amend what I wrote above - Hero's steam device is not an engine as the term is used today which encompasses output mechanisms that performing work in addition to the prime mover itself. However, it certainly fits the broad definition of engine, particularly as that term was used prior to the Industrial Revolution.

Given the time, Hero's work was remarkable, and only underscores the extent to which science and engineering languished during the dark ages.
posted by Pastabagel at 7:18 AM on March 26, 2008

Would you pay $6 million for one?
posted by cass at 7:50 AM on March 26, 2008

Hero's work was remarkable

Too true, Pastabagel! And, it is fitting that Hero of Alexandria is remembered in our language, through lending his name as an epithet to all those brave pioneers who boldy strike out in new directions, and who justly win the praise of the crowd.

Even now, when we want to highlight the life of an outstanding leader and thinker, we simply say that the person was "a fucking little smart Alex".
posted by the quidnunc kid at 8:07 AM on March 26, 2008

Whoo boy, some wonderful day I'm going to settle down in that little corner of the Uncanny Valley.
posted by louche mustachio at 9:08 AM on March 26, 2008

Oh I want them. All of them. Must resist temptation to start new insanely expensive collection hobby.
posted by dejah420 at 9:09 AM on March 26, 2008

Wow. Another fantastic FPP?! I am going to run out of favorites today.

Now, someone make post an atomaton ceiling cat that plays drums, and I can die happy.
posted by misha at 10:17 AM on March 26, 2008

Does this have something to do with Turing machines? Cellular automata definitely gave me nightmares during that one semester of college...

Oh wait, these are way better. Yay!
posted by vytae at 11:11 AM on March 26, 2008

posted by malocchio at 2:37 PM on March 26, 2008

This is the stuff of nightmares.
posted by deborah at 7:39 PM on March 26, 2008

"I make friends. They're toys. My friends are toys. I make them. It's a hobby."
posted by Citizen Premier at 8:36 PM on March 26, 2008 [1 favorite]

Awesomely lovely/creepy post! Seeing the automaton that writes brought back a fuzzy memory of a book I loved in grade school about a girl and a mystery she solved using clues from several automata. One wrote words, one had something to do with music...I can't remember any more, and I can't find it in Worldcat with such sketchy details, but I'm seized with the desire to find the book and read it. If it doesn't sound familiar to any of you, I'm headed to AskMe.
posted by donnagirl at 10:24 PM on March 26, 2008

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