Adam Savage Talks to Wearable Robot Maker Jorvon Moss

This fascinating little video comes from Adam Savage’s Tested channel on YouTube. Savage is an SF fan, who himself makes science fiction costumes and props, and who also interviews professional modellers and costume and special effects technicians. In this video he talks to Black maker Jorvon Moss, who makes wearable robots and technology. Moss states that he started making these machines after a friend died during the Covid pandemic. It was his way of processing and getting through the grief. The first of Moss’ machines they look at is a pair of enormous SF goggles, whose lenses go in and out and which sports eyebrows that go up and down. Moss says at one point it was inspired by Steampunk, which he considers to be the perfect synthesis of art and technology. This really didn’t surprise me, as one essential element of steampunk costumes, it appears, is a set of suitably retro-futuristic goggles. They then go on to a model robot spider. Moss, unlike just about the rest of humanity, likes spiders and was inspired to make it by the west African legends about the spider god, Anansi. He’s made the robot to sit on his head. The gadget’s own head moves and its eyes light up, so that it gives the impression that it’s watching you. The last robot is partly made from a backpack designed for transporting cats. This is connected via a pipe or flex to the robot, which sits on the wearer’s shoulder. This actually has a computer and a pattern recognition system so that it recognises faces. It also speaks. If it sees someone, it utters one or more of three phrases, including ‘Carbon dioxide detected’ and ‘Alcohol detected’. Moss also shows Savage his robot bird, now somewhat delapidated. He was inspired by Archimedes the robot owl in the Ray Harryhausen ’80s film, Clash of the Titans. The robot has cogwheel eyes that spin round, and a pair of wings that open.

Moss states that he’s really an artist and taught himself about the technology used in his machines. He also says that he was aware there were no other people who looked like him who were making robots and other technological models. He’s therefore keen to inspire other Black people to join in. He also wants other people generally to follow his ideas and become inspired in their turn to take them further. All his ideas are open source, and the details of how they’re built can be found on his website. I think they’re made using a 3D printer, which most of us don’t have access to. But more and more people are acquiring them, and so have the technology to make some of the gadgets and machines he has.

With his background in art Moss sort of reminds me of a 21st century Black Wilf Lunn from Vision On. This was the 1960s-70s BBC programme for deaf children which launched the careers of Aardman Animations, the mischievous plasticene man, Morph, and the artist Tony Hart. After Vision On was cancelled, Hart went on to have his own TV show, Take Hart. Also on Vision On was future Dr. Who Sylvester McCoy as the Professor. Wilf Lunn was the programme’s inventor, who created little toy automatons. It struck me thinking about the series a little while ago that Lunn was probably an artist taking an artistic approach to invention, rather than a scientist or engineer like those on the popular science programme, Tomorrow’s World.

Moss is clearly a talented inventor himself with a great enthusiasm for his robots. He’s an excellent ambassador for technology, and I’ve no doubt that if he went round a few schools, he’d inspired many more kids, particularly Blacks, to take an interest in the STEM subjects.

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