The project


We are very impressed by the complexity of the human eyes. The eye was a great inspiration and helped us make our project. We tried to design the robot with some human eye characteristics, but still not too many. We chose to compete in the OPEN category with a project that would evoke feelings and emotions in people. The project features a unique robotic eye that tracks people’s motions. We want people to be in doubt whether the eye is a robot with humanlike tendencies or if it is just a plain mechanical robot. The eye will react to its surroundings and interact with the viewers. It constantly measures distance to the audience and the sound level around it, and from these data it decides what to look at.


We are used to make projects at our high school and we have all taken part in different types of competitions which have had something to do to with LEGO. This gave us an advantage to make ideas and carry out the project. In the start we used brainstorming to find ideas related to art, when we were going to use LEGO with NXT. One of the first ideas was to make a surface of LEGO that should move like water when you touched it or threw things at it. To us it sounded a bit boring, and we could not find the art aspect in this robot. We also thought of making a robot which should have small mirrors attached. If you shouted or made a quick move, the robot would move the mirrors so you could see yourself in a different perspective. In our opinion this was bad too, because we would not be able to explain why it would be perceived as art. This was the problem with many of our ideas and it was a great challenge to find out what art was. Especially because we are technically minded, and not very creative in relation to traditional art. The challenge was to find the borderline between a gadget and art. This was why we made an inspiration trip to the shopping mall. We had no special idea in mind before the trip, but just looking for inspiration for the artistic robot we wanted to make. We looked at yoyos, mini robots, doll clothes, played mini golf and got a massage. And in a very strange way, this contributed a lot to the idea we have chosen to work with.

The mini robot and the doll costumes gave us the idea to make a face or a human-like robot that could interact with the spectator by making facial expressions. But the most important discovery on the inspiration trip was when we saw a transparent plastic ball, because it made us realize that we should make a robot eye. Then we decided to focus on the eye, and the expressions we, human beings, give with our eyes.


We narrowed our ideas down to one simple but very strong idea. We wanted to make use of feelings by making a robotic eye and make it follow people. One of the important features would be the size of the eye. We wanted a very big eye. It should be very clean and raw without any surroundings. The eye itself should be an individual. By clean we mean that the robot should be very simple and solid. This makes it look very cold and machine like. We wanted on the other hand to make it lively by simulating human acts and spontaneity. Also the human reflexes should be imitated by the robotic pupil.


The robotic eye consists of an aluminum stand and an eye made of a transparent ball. The stand is milled on a CNC milling machine in a way the makes each NXT motor fit perfectly. The aluminum is shaped so that the LEGO parts can be connected together and holds the motors. The two motors on the stand control the vertical and horizontal movement of the eye. Each motor is connected to a special made shaft via LEGO gears and a special made cylinder that the gears can be connected to. The cylinder and the shaft is held together by a screw. The stand is made up of several parts. Each part can be disassembled for transport. This is a very important feature for us. The stand is shaped like a cross, with four legs. The center yawing axis is placed in the middle of the cross. The eye holder is turning in this axis.

The inner eye is made entirely out of LEGO. Inside we have a separate NXT that drives the LEGO pupil. The pupil itself is a little piece of art. The pupil consists of several identical pieces of LEGO that turns at the same time. This gives the illusion that the pupil is opening or closing. It can be compared to a traditional camera lens.


The first part we found for our product was the eye itself. The acrylic transparent ball was given to us by a local shopping mall. We looked for a special look and feeling and this did exactly what we were looking for. It was very big and clean.

Following our idea we started on making a very clean and raw stand. We wanted a very sturdy stand and therefore we looked at the possibility to make it out of aluminium. We used our personal network and got an apprentice toolmaker to help us make the stand. He used a CNC milling machine to make the aluminium parts. Now, for the stand to integrate with the LEGO, he milled out embeddings for the motors on both the vertical and horizontal axes. He also installed ball bearings so that the motions of the robot would be smooth and it would be easy for the LEGO motors to turn the big construction. With all this done we went to LEGOLab at Aarhus University. There, we built the pupil, and fitted it inside our acrylic ball. At that time the hardware part of our robot was ready for the Danish finals.

Parallel to the process of building the robot we had carried out numerous experiments with the leJOS NXJ software. That is a text based language rather than the NXT-G which is a graphical language. This was a new programming language for us, and therefore we had to learn it all from scratch in the relatively short time we had available for the project. Though new to the language we managed to make an arrangement that consisted of two sound sensors on a stick that was mounted on a motor. We programmed the motor to turn to the side with the most noise. This worked very well and it really made one feel “watched” by the robot. As that was the exact feeling we were seeking to evoke in people, we decided to implement this in our finished robot.

As newcomers to the leJOS language we struggled to understand how to use behaviour programming. Also we had our share of problems making the two NXTs communicate via bluetooth. Though, on the last night before the Danish finals we finally got our robot to work perfectly. It really gave you that feeling of being watched. On the day of the finals we experienced our biggest disappointment during our project as our robot had a minor failure in one of the ball bearings just prior to our presentation for the judges. This did not ruin our chances to win and go to South Korea though, and we are very grateful of that.

After the Danish final we have made many improvements to our robot. The part that broke down has been fixed and improved, the programming has been redone, we decided to use ultrasonic sensors instead of sound sensors, and we worked on making a more clear definition of why we think our robot is a unique piece of art.

We decided to redo the programming as we are now capable of making multithreaded programs. We are now able to do several things at once.We therefore decided to change the way the robot follows people. At the Danish finals we used sound to determine where a person stood, but this did not function well in a big room with lots of noise. Instead we now use a “radar” that scans the room using an ultrasonic sensor. By using multithreading we are able to both measure the sound level and the distance to the audience.

One of the things that the Danish judges told us to be clearer about was the main art theme. That is why we talked to René Fosshammer, who is a drama teacher’in the area where we live, and he had a lot of great ideas. We got a new understanding of art and it really helped us describe, to you, why we think our robot is so unique.


We have many keywords concerning the art side of the project:

  • Interactivity
  • Associations from the robot
  • Feeling chased
  • Cyborg
  • Robotics in humans or humanity in robots

We want people to feel that they can interact with the robot. The main focus of our project is to make people think, and make them confused. We want people to think that they are being followed by the eye, but they should still be a bit unsure about it. The interaction is when the eye follows the movements in the surroundings. Not only does it find the interesting things and track their movements, but it does also react to changes in the surroundings: like shadows from a person. This would make the pupil expand.

We want people to wonder if it is a robot. It is obvious that it is, but still confused that it is able find people and change point of interest. It has the same functions and characteristics as the human eye. The constant adjustment to light is contributing to emphasize that.

All these human characteristics make you think of cyborgs. The combination of human and robotics have long been a well known topic and is a very fascinating concept. The distinction between plain improvements/prosthesis and cyborgs is very hard to figure out. We want to take advantage of this. People may think that it is hard to figure out whether it is a human with robotics or if it is the other way around, a robot with human feelings and features.

The wondering is what makes art…
Every single person should make its own interpretation of our eye.


We have a very strong teamwork, not only because we are good friends and know each other’s qualities, but also because we are very competent at working as a group when working on different projects.

We are very good at finding each other’s qualities and make use of them. We each see things in different ways which helps us find the sometimes odd, but unique ideas.

Because we often work in groups we are also used to handle discussions and get them solved right away, instead of letting them pass by and heap up. This is in fact the biggest reason for our good teamwork. We are very efficient when it comes to solving problems.

By having different points of view and competences, we have been able to make a professional working process.

We hope you feel the same thrill and enthusiasm about our project that we have felt, and that you will ask us if there is something you want to have clarified.