If we want to express our feelings about something while communicating, face mimicry is probably the best option we have. The following kinetic sculpture, called Face Forward, is a perfect example of that.
Christian Ristow, the creator of this kinetic sculpture, has a vast experience in building robots, as well as in animatronics. Face Forward was his pièce de résistance for Burning Man 2011, an event taking place in the Black Rock Desert in northern Nevada, in the United States. Even though numerous participants exhibit works of art, not everything qualifies for this event. Besides artwork, other principles that govern the event include decommodification, community and absurdity in general.
The kinetic sculpture stands 12 feet tall, so it surely was impossible not to spot it at the event. The shiny aluminum and steel structure must have looked marvelous in person, but the above picture and the following video do enough justice to it. The sculpture employs 12 servo motors that are each connected to a segment of the face involved in mimicry: the eyebrows and the eyelids, as well as the four corners of the mouth. It should be noted that the eyebrows can either move inwards or outwards. Each of the 12 mechanisms is controlled by a wireless joystick, that the attendants of the festival had the pleasure to try. The climax must have happened when all of the 12 joysticks were controlled simultaneously by different people, with all of the mechanisms moving in unison. Judging by how excited people controlling the sculpture look in the following video, I bet the experience must have been unforgettable.
As Christian Ristow admits in the video, the face is the ultimate mechanism for expressing ourselves. He claims that if he had the budget and the time for studying 3D models thoroughly, the result would have been much better. I, for one, am already impressed with this, so further improvements could only make Face Forward even more spectacular. Ristow is certainly right about something: as long as two persons stand face to face, using words is not imperative, as the muscles of the face are able to do all the communication. He promises to enhance his creation, provided that he has enough time and material for this. The animatronic face would leave many speechless if it had the entire surface stitched together. However, this airy design is attractive enough, to say the least.