Picture of Animatronic Eyes
This instructable shows how I made a set of eyes for an animatronic robot character. They only move from side to side, but have working eyelids. (18+)

I actually modified a manually controlled set of DIY puppet eyes, to use servos. Hence, I originally performed the steps in a drastically different order. In this instructable, I try to present the steps more logically.

The eyes were made with the following:
  • model plane plywood (3mm)
  • 2 mini RC servos,
  • 1 standard RC servo (another mini would work)
  • scrap styrene,
  • epoxy,
  • glue,
  • paper clip,
  • small screws
Remove these adsRemove these ads by Signing Up

Step 1:

Here is an example of how they work. I control them from my laptop with an SSC-32 controller from Lynxmotion, seen to the right of the eyes.

Step 2: Make base

Picture of Make base
I used a piece of 3mm plywood, approximately 3 inches square to make the base for the eyes (the sketch is not necessarily to scale).
There are two pieces of stripwood glued to the bottom (which can be seen as "bumps" on the bottom edge and in the picture in step 6) that are 1/4" square by the length of the base. They are separated by the width of the mini RC servo cases and are used to screw the servos to the base.

Note the two 1/2" square posts mounted to one side. They will be used to mount the servo that controls the eyelids. They are separated by the width of the RC servo case, are the height of the case and are installed so that the servo arm will be in a direct line with the control arm of the eyelids (See step 2). The eylid pivot point and the large holes are actually made in a separate step.
GrantLevy4 years ago
Couldn't this project be adapted to work with an RF joystick controller? I'm puppeteer and this intrigues me!
djsfantasi (author)  GrantLevy4 years ago
Most definitely! Not an RC hobbyist, but I see no reason why it couldn't be adapted. Especially simple if all you are talking about are the eyes.

The entire penguin is another matter. I see that requiring a dedicated microprocessor onboard the puppet to interpret the RF Joystick controller commands and map them to the puppet's actions. Fortunately, these microprocessors are small...

The robotics forum I mention in the instructable has many ideas for this area. There is an entire sub-forum dedicated to remote control that discusses these approaches.
makermike4 years ago
Great instructable! Lots of details and good explanations. I'll have to remember this for my next Halloween prop!
What a neat project... thanks for sharing... nice end expression (re: vid)
kelseymh4 years ago
Great project! The video is nicely done, showing most of the range of both the eyes and the beak.
john1010142 months ago
Gabi29143 months ago
Hey I have a question. I'm thinking of making a robot myself and I'm wondering: where would you be able to purchase the servos?
djsfantasi (author)  Gabi29143 months ago
There are many places online: ServoCity, Robotshop, Pololu, and HobbyKing.
MoonPaw33336 months ago

I am making an animatronic and the eyes are 80mm plastic ornaments while the lids are half of 100mm ornaments would this tutorial still work on them?

djsfantasi (author)  MoonPaw33335 months ago
Sure! You'd have to adjust some measurements, but the concept will still apply. You would have close to a 3/4" gap between the eyes and the eyelid. But with a little over 3" eyeball, it might look OK.
you should put a skin around it, that would look SICK. very cool stuff
djsfantasi (author)  Wingmaster7004 years ago
We're working on the body...
djsfantasi (author)  djsfantasi1 year ago
Three years later, and I may have a lead on making a body. Could be a new Instructable on creating a fabric skin for an animatronic cartoon character?
J-Five3 years ago
MovieMaker3 years ago
Very Good, But, where is the code?


djsfantasi (author)  MovieMaker3 years ago
The code is based on the Lynxmotion SSC-32 controller. This Instructable used a DOS .CMD file to send commands to the servo controller. I used an Excel spreadsheet to map action descriptions to the SSC-32 commands, then, in another sheet, used these descriptions to "script" and look up the appropriate codes and construct the DOS command. The results were cut and pasted into a .CMD file which was then run to produce the result you see in the video. "delay" is another DOS script that provides delays in units of 10ms by looping and counting the number of loops. Servo channel #0 is the left eye; channel #1 is the right eye. Servo channel #2 are the eyelids. This particular script below does not control the mouth; the .CMD file commands for just the eyes are listed below:

@echo off& if defined debug @echo on
rem Initialize eyes to 'home' position
rem Control script starts after pause
@echo Look ahead&@echo #0P1500 #1P1500 > COM4:
@echo Open eyes&@echo #2P600 > COM4:
@echo pause&@pause
@echo Look right&@echo #0P1100 #1P1100 > COM4:
@echo delay 1.00secs.& @call delay 1.00
@echo Look left&@echo #0P2000 #1P2000 > COM4:
@echo delay 1.00secs.& @call delay 1.00
@echo Look right&@echo #0P1100 #1P1100 > COM4:
@echo delay 1.00secs.& @call delay 1.00
@echo Look ahead&@echo #0P1500 #1P1500 > COM4:
@echo delay 1.00secs.& @call delay 1.00
@echo Look right&@echo #0P1100 #1P1100 > COM4:
@echo delay 0.02secs.& @call delay 0.02
@echo Look ahead&@echo #0P1500 #1P1500 > COM4:
@echo delay 0.10secs.& @call delay 0.10
@echo Look right&@echo #0P1100 #1P1100 > COM4:
@echo delay 0.02secs.& @call delay 0.02
@echo Look ahead&@echo #0P1500 #1P1500 > COM4:
@echo delay 0.10secs.& @call delay 0.10
@echo Look left slowly&@echo #0P2000 #1P2000 T1500 > COM4:
@echo delay 2.00secs.& @call delay 2.00
@echo Look ahead&@echo #0P1500 #1P1500 > COM4:
@echo delay 2.00secs.& @call delay 2.00
@echo Blink eyes&@echo #2P1050 > COM4:
@echo delay 0.01secs.& @call delay 0.01
@echo Open eyes&@echo #2P600 > COM4:
@echo delay 0.20secs.& @call delay 0.20
@echo Blink eyes&@echo #2P1050 > COM4:
@echo delay 0.01secs.& @call delay 0.01
@echo Open eyes&@echo #2P600 > COM4:
@echo delay 0.20secs.& @call delay 0.20
@echo Look right&@echo #0P1100 #1P1100 > COM4:
@echo delay 0.50secs.& @call delay 0.50
@echo Look ahead&@echo #0P1500 #1P1500 > COM4:
@echo delay 0.02secs.& @call delay 0.02
@echo Squint eyes slowly&@echo #2P1050 T2000 > COM4:
@echo delay 2.00secs.& @call delay 2.00
@echo Look right slowly&@echo #0P1100 #1P1100 T1500 > COM4:
@echo delay 2.00secs.& @call delay 2.00
@echo Look left slowly&@echo #0P2000 #1P2000 T1500 > COM4:
@echo delay 2.00secs.& @call delay 2.00
@echo Look ahead&@echo #0P1500 #1P1500 > COM4:
@echo delay 1.00secs.& @call delay 1.00
@echo Open eyes&@echo #2P600 > COM4:
@echo delay 0.03secs.& @call delay 0.03
@echo Cross-eyed&@echo #0P2000 #1P1100 > COM4:
@echo pause&@pause
Thanks for the Reply.

the video reminds me of a dolphin because of the sound it makes
djsfantasi (author) 4 years ago
The Epilog Challenge and the National Robotics Week Robot Contest are open for voting. I would appreciate your votes for my entries "Animatronic Penguin Torso" and "Animatronic Eyes".
Thank you, dj
djsures4 years ago
Neat little idea! I might have to borrow this for one of my next robots! Thanx for the tips!
Skeckulous4 years ago
Looks awesome.
I was looking into doing something similar but preferably something that would be as cheap as possible, installable outside, and possibly using a motion sensor.
I feel the only real way to do this is to manufacture a specific board for this project and not use that type of controller.
Any thoughts on driving costs down?

And awesome work.
LucasOchoa4 years ago
pretty chill man
kadirghouse4 years ago
This is the perfect with low cost invention .please try to fit this eyes in any machines to control itself from receiving the hand signal.
djsfantasi (author)  kadirghouse4 years ago
See my reply to GrantLevy. It is entirely do-able.

If used as part of a puppet, it can also be controlled by dedicated circuitry that drives the servos directly from a slide pot or two or three mounted in the head. The original eyes were controlled in a puppet's head via a mechanical slider...

We are working on controlling the eyes, indeed the entire penguin, via an iPhone app. Tilting and turning the handheld iPhone would do the same for the eyes, or head or body...
Ghost Wolf4 years ago
are you controlling it or is it a programed?

Love the instructables lots of detail :)
djsfantasi (author)  Ghost Wolf4 years ago
These videos were controlled by a program. The video of the completed body uses a program that is non-deterministic; it performs differently each time it is run. I created what I am calling "acode" (for animatronic code) to specify the actions for the animatronic.

There currently is a project in development to use an iPhone as a controller for "Peter Penguin".
that's cool

were are you going to put it?
djsfantasi (author)  Ghost Wolf4 years ago
Don't know yet... In the den, on the table during the holidays, etc...
Sweet you can always say you have a pet penguin lol
BeerPowered4 years ago
Hey, it's Rico!
djsfantasi (author)  BeerPowered4 years ago
Hey Rico . . . I think I don't know you?
No, i'm not Rico. It's that penguin, from The Penguins of Madagascar. Don't you know that cartoon? The best cartoon ever!
That one on the left.
djsfantasi (author)  BeerPowered4 years ago

I know Rico; he was part of the inspiration for the project
Great project BTW.
astroboy9074 years ago
Is anyone else as creeped out as me about this?
luv the end of the vid tho :)
Hey djfantasi, might you be able to email me when you get the chance? I am big into animatronics and would like to know a few things more. Send me a message and Ill send you my email, or if I find out how to work this website Ill send you a message with me email first ha ha
Awesome project :)
ynze4 years ago
I want eyes like that! Great Instructable!