Puppeteering - Animating facial features with LittleBits

Hello there! I’m new to LittleBits, and it’s actually my boyfriend who introduced me to it! It was hard for him to convince me how awesome LittleBits could be, but the moment our first Arduino Kit came in via mail, both of us lost our marbles. I never even KNEW the possibilities!!! Why did I ever doubt it?

So now I’m getting VERY excited, because both of us are graphic artist, and I sculpt.
I’m designing a wire frame of a creature I’ve created.

This photo demonstrates my creature with a mutilated jaw, and different angles.

My creature has a total of 4 jaw pieces, 2 top, 2 bottom (basically if you were to split the mouth a second time down the center vertically) and has a fleshy stubby tongue to help it pick up food. My goal is to make everything connected to one unit, hidden in a glove, that’s… Pressure sensitive? I want all 4 jaws to be able to be independent, and controlled manually, as well as the tongue.
The jaws would have simple, almost 2-4 movements each.
The tongue would have at least 4-8 directional movements.

So here’s my question(s) for you guys! :slight_smile:

I know nothing about puppeteering, this will be my first project, so I was hoping a community could give me some ideas of where to start, and point me in the right direction.

What pieces do you recommend would work for this scenario, and what purpose would they serve?
We currently only own the Arduino Kit, and this is our only hands-on experience, so far.
The “servo” looks useful, since it moves back and forth.
I think I need a few “buttons”, one for each angle movement?

Speak as simple as you can, as I know very little about electronics, but understand anatomy and art very well. :smile:

Thank you for you time!!

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Further visual references

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Yes, the servo motor will be excellent for moving the jaws. And buttons, but there are input modules that work like a button, but can give you more control. Specifically, the slide dimmer, the pressure sensor, and the light sensor are all good. Further look at the DC motor, and you can rig it up for back and forth motion. While it’s not quite as scary as your creature, look at this project to see how you can turn circular motion into up and down motion:

Or this one that uses several servos:

And if you are wanting to use multiple servos, you will also want the USB power bit, as it can handle 2 amps.


Hi, @Kiwi_Fox! I’m so excited about your idea! Here are a couple littleBits projects that involve puppetry:

Servo Operated Blinking Mechanism for a Puppet by Jeff Bragg
Check out the comments section of this project for some info.

Speech Puppet by PANTOGRAPH

Please also see the Tips & Tricks for the Servo. You can browse through all the Tips & Tricks pages to find super helpful pointers. :slight_smile:

If you have specific questions about controlling a servo with the Arduino, feel free to ask. I’m sure someone will chime in with a short bit of code you can try. :smile:

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Brilliant!! Thank you both Chris and Jude!! :smile:
Thanks for the great suggestions on which pieces I should look at!

I think I will need a minimum of 6 servos ($25.95ea /$100 - $150); 2 for upper jaws, 4 for lower jaws. (more if I get the hang of it, and want to make a wriggly tongue)
I’m thinking either the slide dimmer ($9.95ea / $40-$60), or pressure sensor ($17.95), probably 6 slides, but I will get one of each to play with them to find out what will work best.
I think we need a DC (direct current?) since it didn’t come in the kit we got.

The blinking puppet especially got me excited, because he mentioned using a pressure sensor! That sounds almost exactly what I’m trying to accomplish!
I will probably need those “erector set” metal pieces to form the hinges and joints, and use wire to fill the skeleton of my creature! I’m guessing you buy those from somewhere like, toys r us?

I’m wondering though, according to the blinking video, if the pressure plate is simply a “on/off”,
black and white, kind of sensor, verses something like a dimmer switch, that is a gradient based on how much, or how little you press/turn the knob. I’m guessing that’s what the slider does?

I may have to start off simple, with an on/off pressure sensor, since I’m have to start off simple and learn how to use LittleBits.

Of course, This project I expect to take a while, but I’d love to post progression photos / videos once I get to constructing!! :smiley:

My boyfriend is reading this topic too, and will help me along the way!

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Hi @Kiwi_Fox,
The pressure sensor is gradient based also.
You can use it as on/off switch when pressed firmly, but when pressed with different weights the signal represents the weight. For this effect you must bend the sensor a little, for example by usung a small metal ring op top of the flat surface.

I used this in the magical marble sorting machine, where the pressure sensor sorts out the marbles based on their weight.

Wow!! That’s so amazing! I especially like the simple “bit map” to show a basic construction of the device! It’s so encouraging to see these videos, to help me realize that these are meant to make anyone feel confident enough to make electronics :slight_smile:


@Kiwi_Fox I saw this bitLab module called the “Happy Happy Joy Bit” and think it could be a great way to control a puppet. If you agree, maybe you could give it a vote and leave a comment. :smile:

OH, HEY, I just realized there are TWO Joystick modules in the Bitlab, so you can make your choice! : This one is by @Jopet

@Kiwi_Fox, how’s your puppetry going? Do you have any more sketches or models you can share with us?

Please join us at our next Community Call! It’s June 24th, Noon, EST. It’s a great time to share your progress with friends and get immediate feedback and ideas. Hope to see you then! :smile: