A robot puppet rolled through San Francisco singing Vanessa Carlton hits

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With an instantly recognizable hook and effervescent melody, Vanessa Carlton’s debut azygous A Thousand Miles deed nan 2002 Billboard Charts for illustration a neutron bomb, earning nominations for nan Grammy Award for Song of nan Year and nan Billboard Music Award for Top 40 Track of nan Year. Featured prominently successful 2004’s White Chicks, Terry Crews credits nan undeniable smash pinch helping motorboat his acting career. 

The accompanying euphony video saw Carlton and her soft rolling done Newbury Park, California, and portions of downtown Los Angeles. Twenty-one years later, a squad of hobbyist roboticists person brought Carlton’s euphony backmost to nan nationalist receptor — this time, to nan streets of San Francisco pinch an animatronic performer and remotely deployable disco ball.

The robot, which presently doesn’t person overmuch of a moniker from nan squad beyond “The Robot,” is nan brainchild of San Francisco-based aerospace technologist Ben Howard, electrical technologist Noah Klugman, lawyer Lane Powell (with further assistance from section puppeteer, Adam Kreutinger). “This is conscionable a point that we've done together, nan 3 of us, to effort to create immoderate joy,” Klugman told Engadget during a caller video call.

The trio first collaborated during nan pandemic. “Kids couldn't really instrumentality aliases dainty properly,” Howard explained. “So we put together a benignant of spooky Halloween candy dispensing robot that could thrust astir nan streets and immoderate kids who were brave capable could locomotion up, person a speech pinch it and get immoderate candy.” That task inspired them to look into processing a robot pinch year-round appeal. A “piano playing Muppet seemed for illustration a bully point to do,” he continued, and from that nan Thousand-Mile Machine was born.

The squad started pinch an outdated nutrient transportation drone model, obtained from “a friend of a friend,” arsenic nan mobile level connected which to build retired nan remainder of nan construct. “When companies get free of these things, if they're cool pieces of hardware, location are plentifulness of engineers astir nan metropolis who for illustration to modify them and move them into nosy projects,” Howard explained. “There's a large organization of group who are sharing cool hardware around.”

“I came to get [the wheeled base] and we wanted to do this euphony playing robot.” he added. “Then, erstwhile you deliberation astir soft subordinate that roams astir nan city, instantly that [Vanessa Carlton] video comes to mind. It's truthful iconic.”

The astir 400-pound robot measures astir 5 feet agelong connected a broadside and astir 4 feet tall, constrictive capable to fresh connected a sidewalk and into nan TEU instrumentality shop successful which it was built astatine San Francisco’s Box Shop. The wheeled guidelines is controlled remotely and manually, while nan puppet’s capacity — from nan manus and caput movements to nan large disco shot uncover — are each portion of a prerecorded act, akin to Chuck E Cheese’s animatronic Pizza Players band. A azygous fastener property is each that’s needed to commencement nan performance.

Vanessa Carlton herself reportedly met nan robot during a caller arena successful Petaluma. “It seemed for illustration she enjoyed it,” Klugman noted. “Everyone we've met successful San Francisco has seemed to really emotion it. I deliberation nan consequence has been overwhelmingly positive.”

“That was very overmuch [the lawsuit with] everyone we encountered erstwhile we were retired filming,” Lane added. “Just really happy to watch it and excited to talk to america astir it and conscionable 100 percent affirmative from each ages and each walks of life each complete nan city. It was a really cool experience.”

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