How it works
Taking it from the top
Above is an interactive diagram of pretty much all the functions in Melvin the Mini Machine. Simply move your mouse over the numbers to see what happens where.
The best and most fun Rube Goldberg machines are those that function (or seem to function) with nothing but random stuff. Because we want our Melvins to be able to perform over and over again, we decided in an early stage to use more purpose-built parts and combine those with items that fit the idea and styling of the machine. We come up with most of the parts and functions ourselves and we further develop them through a process of trial and error, but we use parts and ideas from other machines as well.
There are a lot of great chain reaction machines out there. The ones that we like best are those from the Japanese television show Pitagora Suichi (or Pythagora Switch) - watching this show on Japanese television actually made us build our first chain reaction machine. Their enginuity and the attention for detail in these Japanese machines is second to none. Search for them on You Tube, or simply click here.
Behind the scenes
Melvin the Mini Machine uses a smartphone and bespoke code and software to determine its location, write messages and recognize the people around him. Like the other parts of the machine, most of it is purpose-built and other parts are adaptations of (open source) software.
About the smartphone
About the smartphone The phone we use is a HTC Desire running Android 2.3.3 which was given to us by Blue Mango Interactive. We use an app custom built by Michael Schifferling that takes a picture and sends it to a webserver, where an image URL and GPS data are added to a MySQL database. Still with us?
This is where it gets technical
We used Visual Studio to build a program that processes and analyzes the photos taken by Melvin. For glyph recognition we worked with GRATF from AForge.net, expanding the framework to work for an undefined number of glyphs, and replacing markers with words.
Meanwhile, on the website...
Once a picture is uploaded after it’s been processed, the data and the picture are published to Facebook and Twitter using the API from both platforms. Melvin’s travels page runs the Google Maps API with a custom layout. And last but not least, the GPS data link uploaded by the phone to the markers on the map is a custom jQuery script.
Talk to humans
Like to know more about how Melvin the Mini Machine works, why we do stuff like this, or if you’re interested in booking Melvin the Mini Machine for a show, please feel free to contact us.
Concept, design and production
Maarten Witteveen
Smartphone sponsored by
Blue Mango Interactive
Steye van Dam
Direction and production
Co-production and support
Diderik Evers
Music "The wonders of the world"
Woody Veneman
Ine van den Elsen
Joris Tillmans
Annemiek Swinkels
Clothing by
Thank you
Bart Hess, Wietske & Gijs, Fons Schiedon, Arne Balk, Bart Bekker, Eric de Haas, Angelique Spaninks, Angeline & Dick Lafeber, Bas van Hout.