Golan Levin: And wel­come back to our sec­ond pre­sen­ta­tion of our after­noon ses­sion here at Art && Code: Homemade. I’m Golan Levin, pro­fes­sor of elec­tron­ic art at Carnegie Mellon, direc­tor of the Art && Code fes­ti­val and the STUDIO for Creative Inquiry. And I am thrilled to intro­duce our next speak­er, Jorvon Moss, also known as Odd_Jayy, who is a California-based tin­ker­er, design­er, ris­ing Instagram star, and auto­di­dact who cre­ates wear­able robot­ic com­pan­ions and invents new forms of inter­ac­tive elec­tron­ic cou­ture. Jorvon Moss, Odd_Jayy. 

Jorvon Moss: Hi, every­one. Okay, so a lit­tle bit about myself. My name is Jorvon but I go by Odd_Jayy online. And I’m a self-taught mak­er from LA. Self-taught from col­lege; I’ve been doing this for like five or six years now. I’ll have a small pre­sen­ta­tion here. 

This lit­tle ver­sion of me, this is a fan art from a friend, who pret­ty much drew me with some of my oth­er, ear­li­er ideas and inven­tions and lit­tle toys and tools that I put together. 

I’ve done a few events as well. I was able to meet Alex Glow and we did talk at Maker Faire San Francisco in back in 2018. I love doing those type of things. I love giv­ing talks. I like try­ing to inspire peo­ple with what we do and hope­ful­ly inspire peo­ple to build their own lit­tle robots. So, I’m con­stant­ly like, hap­pi­ly passionately…to talk about these type of things. 

So I’ve been doing this for a lit­tle while. I’ve been most­ly kind of self-contained. I am very story-driven, so I always try to build a robot based off of some type of genre, whether it be steam­punk, or cyber­punk, or…whatever you might think. So yeah, I do a whole bunch of ran­dom shoots here and there, and back before COVID, I was able to take my robots out with me some­times and I would just go out some­where or go meet up with a friend and I’ll just…have a ran­dom robot on my shoulder. 

Of course, like I said before, it’s more events. In these pic­tures, you can see the same robots. It’s actu­al­ly one of my favorite robots, Dexter, who’s a robot mon­key. I designed Dexter a while ago, and he’s gone through so many iter­a­tions at this point. But this is lit­er­al­ly days apart. The one of the left is dur­ing a Supercon—2018 of course—hangout. 2018/2019. And then I got real­ly inspired from hang­ing out with all the oth­er mak­ers that I actu­al­ly went home and redesigned Dexter’s face to look like this in the pic­ture on the right. 

This is me at DesignCon. So, I’m very big on design because of course we have to think of design we you’re mak­ing a robot because you can’t— I’m not real­ly a fan of mak­ing a robot just on a func­tion. Because you can make any­thing real­ly func­tion and make it look not that cool. It’ll work, but it won’t look cool. I mean, what’s the fun with that? So I do my best to acti­vate a lot of design into my work. So I’m going to show you a lit­tle more of my work behind me in a sec­ond. But I do a lot of stuff like that. 

This is actu­al­ly from an online Maker Faire last year with me, Alex, and our friend Angela, who did a talk on wear­able robots. Very fun. If you guys haven’t had a chance to take a look at it, it’s def­i­nite­ly on YouTube. And we talked about all the [indis­tinct] process­es, the dif­fer­ent mate­ri­als, ideas… It was a very very fun time, going into all the details of every­thing we do. 

So this is one of my oth­er ones that I actu­al­ly designed to wear on my head. It’s very small, but I’ve been try­ing to branch out a bit and not just wear robot on of course my shoul­der. I want to wear them any oth­er place I can think of, like my hair for exam­ple. So I designed a robot to fit it my hair. 

This is one of my favorite robots. It’s name is Widget. It’s actu­al­ly a wear­able drag­on. I still have him, but I ran into some design errors and I just haven’t got­ten back to build­ing a drag­on because it took a lot of time just to get him to that point, and trust me it was not easy. 

This is kind of my design process. I do a lot of sketch­ing. I have an arts degree. I went to art school for years and got a degree in illus­tra­tion. So, I do a lot of sketch­ing before I [indis­tinct] the design process. So I’ll sketch out an idea, see if I like it. Then I go into Fusion 360, CAD it up, put all the design work into it. Print it out, test it, see if I like it, see if it works. And then I con­stant­ly do this type of redesign. I keep things that I like, I get rid of things I don’t like. I’ll reprint parts if some­thing is wrong with them or there’s some­thing I don’t like about them. And I con­tin­ue to go with that process. 

This is def­i­nite­ly one from of course my robot mon­key Dexter. Some of my sketch­books and then of course of course a quick print I did when I was try­ing to get the mech­a­nism togeth­er. A lot of the stuff I do is always very quick sketch­es. It’s not very detailed, not like ful­ly illus­trat­ed. It’s lit­er­al­ly just try­ing to get the idea on the paper. And it helps, too. Like you see there, I have a sticky note on the sketch­es because I just need to kind of fig­ure out things. And of course I use dif­fer­ent col­ors some­times. That way I can draw around things and kind of see how this could look, or how it’s sup­posed to look, or how it maybe will look. 

And then of course the test­ing. This was my Dexter Mk 1. This was his first design. Originally I was try­ing to wear him on my shoul­der. As you can see, he is huge. He’s way too big to wear on my shoulder. 

And I had the fun time of learn­ing the hard way that it would­n’t work. So the pic­ture on the left is my first out­ing with him. And he lit­er­al­ly broke in half. It was a very very like, Noooooo!” moment. But I take it in stride. A lot of times the first draft and the first design nev­er real­ly works out. So of course, being the per­son I am, I lit­er­al­ly saw what was wrong, took notes, went back home, and I got back to redesign­ing it so it does­n’t hap­pen again. 

So that taught me to build Dexter as more of a giant puz­zle piece. So now I can eas­i­ly dis­as­sem­ble and reassem­ble him at any time, in any way I real­ly want to. Because if you’re going to be car­ry­ing around a robot, you def­i­nite­ly have to think about what hap­pens if it breaks, or some­thing mess­es up while you’re out. You have to kind of impro­vise or think of an eas­i­er way you can put things back togeth­er, that way you can con­tin­ue enjoy­ing your event or what­ev­er with your robot. 

These are my last ones for my pre­sen­ta­tion part. I did a lot of work on this new Dexter. This is him now on the left screen here, hold­ing the stick­er. Just super…more detailed; a lot big­ger than he used to be. A lot more move­ment, a lot more flu­ent­ly, and I also got into the habit of design­ing mini ver­sions of him. So on the right that’s actu­al­ly one that I took with me to work one day, and mini Dexter who had a cam­era in his eye. So while it’s look­ing around he was tak­ing pic­tures and I was able to look back and look at those pic­tures lat­er. That’s one of them.

Also, because I promised to fin­ish this before the day, I want you to intro­duce you all to my cur­rent newest robot friend I call RX-27. Yeah, I know. He’s very small and cute—but he beeps. I’ve been work­ing on this one for about a month now, I think. I start­ed him back in December, because I found out that I was going to get to some very obvi­ous issues with mak­ing wear­able robots. Mostly because they’re so big now, because I put so much work and effort into them that they have a ten­den­cy to break, and a ten­den­cy to be too big when car­ry­ing them around. So when I designed RX here, he’s extreme­ly small. Like, com­pared to my head. He’s very very small. And easy to car­ry around. Those were my two big con­cepts when I was work­ing on this lit­tle guy. 

He also comes equipped with new stuff I’m still work­ing on, which are like lit­tle clip­per hands, lit­tle grab­bers. And I can eas­i­ly take him, put him in the cup and then give him attachments. 

So yeah, that’s pret­ty much my main process. My main goal for all of this, espe­cial­ly because I know a lot of peo­ple always ask me if I plan to sell them, if I plan to do any­thing like that. And to be hon­est with you, I don’t real­ly plan to sell any­thing right now. I prob­a­bly will get into the idea of cre­at­ing a com­mon wear­able robot for the future. But most­ly I got into this because I just liked build­ing robots. I was not a very social kid grow­ing up. So I got very into the con­cept and the idea to build my own robots. And when that came to be, I became a lit­tle bit more pop­u­lar and things start­ed hap­pen­ing. And I have a lot of peo­ple always ask­ing me if I’m going to sell it, if I’m going to do this, going to do that… But for right now, I real­ly just want to con­tin­ue expand­ing upon it. 

There’s a good chance in the future, like espe­cial­ly dur­ing COVID—this has actu­al­ly helped me a lot—that I spent a lot of time by myself because of the iso­la­tion. And mak­ing a robot that I was able to kind of com­mu­ni­cate with def­i­nite­ly helped me through it all. I spent a good time just…thinking of if I want­ed a best friend, R2-D2 or WALL‑E, how would they look? How would they move, how were they designed. And this got me to an idea of what if I put AI into this robot? What if I install a chat­bot to it. What if…not say­ing I want to get rid of the human expe­ri­ence, of course, but what if you could take your robot…and have a robot at home. That if you live alone and you can’t have a pet or a dog because of apart­ment rules. But you could have a robot to talk to. That you’ll still have that type of…I want to say, con­ver­sa­tion­al inti­ma­cy with a robot­ic creature. 

And of course that could help for the future. I mean, def­i­nite­ly a lot in sci­ence fic­tion they have space­ships and long journey-type of stuff, and most of the time peo­ple seem to be by them­selves. So imag­ine hav­ing a lit­tle robot that you can just have on the ship with you and just talk to that, and it’d help you keep sane as you go through years and years of space trav­el. So that’s what I kind of hope…things hap­pen when it comes to wear­able robots. 

That’s pret­ty much it. Any oth­er questions?

Golan Levin: That is awe­some. We have time for ques­tions, and there’s a lot of ques­tions for you, Jorvon. Thank you. [Moss starts laugh­ing] No, no, this is is good. No, this is great. Thank you so much. This was fan­tas­tic. Thank you so much Jayy. I’m gonna kin­da start hit­ting you up with some ques­tion here. 

Jorvon Moss: Sure. 

Levin: Alright, first. This is my ques­tion. Kate Hartman has point­ed out, she says robot wear­a­bil­i­ty sounds like a real­ly excit­ing research area. And I agree. And it’s not some­thing that I think…it’s not real­ly a phrase I’ve ever heard before. And so my ques­tion is like, what’s in your opin­ion required tech­ni­cal­ly and con­cep­tu­al­ly for a wear­able com­pan­ion bot? For exam­ple in rela­tion­ship to the body but also in rela­tion­ship to soci­ety. And I’ll give you an exam­ple of what I mean. Like one could say like oh, well there’s spe­cial things that are required in order for it to actu­al­ly clip onto my shoul­der. It can’t just have reg­u­lar legs, it has to have like a sad­dle or some­thing like that, or some kind of way that it relates to my body. 

So you know, you’re one of the world’s fore­most design­ers of wear­able robots. You are, right. So tell us, if I want­ed to design a wear­able robot, what kinds of things would I have to think about. Especially in terms like how oth­er peo­ple see me, as well. 

Moss: Well, def­i­nite­ly always think about size, def­i­nite­ly. And also how flex­i­ble it is? It sounds very weird, but if you build some­thing like a robot mon­key, my robot mon­key has ball joints on it. Because they’re flex­i­ble. So some­times if you’re mov­ing very fast, I don’t have to wor­ry about an arm pop­ping off or some­thing like that happening. 

You also have to think on where you want to wear it. Because depend­ing if it’s on your shoul­der, you might want to…have strong shoul­ders for one, trust me. Or you might want to def­i­nite­ly look into some­thing very small or some­thing even lighter. An exam­ple of that is when I did my robot spi­der, and I made a lit­tle hair­piece for him, the orig­i­nal one was too heavy. It was way too big and it gave me a headache. So I had to design it and actu­al­ly make it small­er and lighter, that way it can fit on my hair comfortably. 

Levin: How about out in the world in terms of oth­er peo­ple see­ing these things. Now, there’s some famous sto­ries about peo­ple going through air­ports with elec­tron­ics and get­ting in trou­ble with peo­ple who’re very sus­pi­cious of what they think could be a bomb or some­thing like this. So how do you cre­ate wear­able robots… These are not sub­tle robots. People notice them. They’ve got blink­ing LEDs, you know. They make noise. Tell us about con­di­tions for wear­ing them in the world. 

Moss: I’ve learned, just for me per­son­al­ly, that cute­ness is key. Sounds real­ly weird. But as humans we have…of course, we project a lot. So, I use a lot of LED eyes, espe­cial­ly like for RX-21 here, to sim­u­late like this is cute, this is harm­less. Because I’ve noticed when it comes to robots that have actu­al eyes, the actu­al­ly LED eyes that peo­ple can see, peo­ple see them as cute or cool. And I usu­al­ly get away with them pret­ty fine­ly. But things like my spi­der robot who does­n’t have any real eyes, he’s wear­able hair­pin one, is more creepy to peo­ple. People see him and like oh, it’s cool and pret­ty but since it does­n’t have any eyes or even a real face, just giant LED for a head, peo­ple find that way more creepy, and peo­ple are a lit­tle bit less okay with approach­ing me about it or talk­ing to me about it. 

So def­i­nite­ly [inaudi­ble] the design con­cept of cute and harm­less in your mind, because we’re humans, and Terminator has total­ly messed up our per­cep­tion of robots. 

Levin: There’s lots more ques­tions. Lea actu­al­ly observes that she’s found an arti­cle enti­tled A Survey of Users’ Expectations Towards On-body Companion Robots.

But oth­er ques­tions. This is from Vernelle Noel, who’ll be speak­ing lat­er this evening. And she asks, How has your rela­tion­ship with these robots made you more aware of your own body, your self, and oth­er non-robots?”

Moss: It’s def­i­nite­ly made me more aware, because I’ve actu­al­ly start­ed work­ing out a lot more because I wear wear­able robots. Like I usu­al­ly just would go on runs, but since the robots became heav­ier I start­ed lift­ing weights so I could be strong enough to wear them all day. I learned that the hard way dur­ing Maker Faire back in 2018 wear­ing my Asi spi­der on my shoul­der all day. At the end of the day my shoul­der was both swollen and sore. So it was just heavy, and it was real­ly killing me but I did­n’t want to take it off because peo­ple were around me. So I’ve just been learn­ing to strength­en my own body so it’d be able to car­ry this. 

Levin: [indis­tinct] moti­va­tion for want­i­ng to work out. 

Moss: It works. It def­i­nite­ly def­i­nite­ly works. 

Levin: Barb who makes things asks, How many hours on aver­age do you put into one of these bots?”

Moss: On work days, I put in about five hours per day. On week­ends I put on the entire day. I’m con­stant­ly build­ing things and work­ing on things. And espe­cial­ly like my robots. Like I will sit down and sketch them out for about an hour or two, and then CADing takes a lit­tle while, then print­ing takes me a while. But I have a per­son­al rule that every day I have to work on some­thing. Whether it just be start­ing my print­er and get­ting a part print­ed, or doing a whole wiring thing. So, definitely…if not five hours or more per day. 

Levin: Wow. The prac­tice shows. Can you tell us about your gog­gles that you’re wear­ing? I don’t think you’ve real­ly shown us those.

Moss: Yeah. I meant to but I total­ly for­got. These are my…I call them mag­pie eyes. And they’re wear­able gog­gle lens­es that are super cool. I designed them after going through…I want to say a bad time. A friend had just passed away and I was hav­ing a bad two days, so I had all these extra parts. So I just start­ed tak­ing some gog­gles I had and I start­ed putting the parts togeth­er. So I made these, and I just made a quick video, like, Hey, I want­ed my own cool like gad­geteer gog­gles. So I built these.” And I post­ed it on the Internet and it got real­ly real­ly pop­u­lar, real­ly real­ly fast, and it sur­prised me. It sur­prised me real­ly real­ly quick­ly how pop­u­lar these are. Because I was­n’t think­ing of them as some­thing that was going to be a project or even a famous build. I just built them because I was sad and I had some stuff I want­ed to do. And now these work.

Levin: Those are great. Thanks. I’m just look­ing to see if there’s some more ques­tions here in the chat. People are lov­ing your work. 

Do you feel like these… I mean, what’s super inter­est­ing to me is that your work spans both sort of like almost Disney-style side­kicks… You know, whether it’s the lead char­ac­ter or the princess who always has the side­kick, or the the bad guy who always has the side­kick, there’s always this sort of side­kick cul­ture in Disney. But there’s also this notion of like elec­tron­ic cou­ture. There’s a ton of style in what you’re doing. And a ques­tion that comes from Claire is do you feel like these pieces are part of a larg­er fic­tion­al or spec­u­la­tive world? Or are they about being with you in this reality?

Moss: I’m gonna say a bit of both. I mean orig­i­nal­ly when I start­ed this, and even a lit­tle bit more pop­u­lar, I was just build­ing for myself. But dur­ing COVID recent times I’ve kind of seen how impor­tant it could be in the future. And it’s kind of tak­en a weird sen­sa­tion where I’m no longer think­ing of it as hey, this is just me hav­ing fun” and now I’m think­ing of it as like hey, this is me hav­ing a chance to make some­thing for the future.” So, some­one else who is in my sit­u­a­tion or if some­thing else hap­pened dur­ing a pan­dem­ic, you can get a robot. 

And I am a Disney fan so I’m real­ly hap­py at that com­par­i­son. Because I am a huge Disney nerd. So, hav­ing this lit­tle robot with me, like I def­i­nite­ly plan when things calm down to go out with him and do stuff like that, and record peo­ple’s respons­es. Because I think it’ll be an interesting…like you said before, research sub­ject that we can look into, and then hope­ful­ly make this like a main thing, a nor­mal every­day thing.

Levin: I real­ize you don’t get out much from your room, par­tial­ly because of COVID and par­tial­ly because of spend­ing five hours a day mak­ing these things. But have you had inter­est­ing reac­tions in the out­side world from folks who are in the wild?

Moss: Oh yeah. Yeah. Definitely I’ve had about three respons­es. One response when I was tak­ing the bus to work. I used to always bring my robot with me some­times just because. I would get some peo­ple who did­n’t like it. I’ve noticed peo­ple who did­n’t see the eyes or the robots had lens­es for eyes, did­n’t like it. They would instant­ly kind of freak out and be like, Is he record­ing me?” and kind of go real­ly para­noid real­ly quick­ly so I had to put it away. 

My sec­ond reac­tions are from peo­ple are just like oh that’s cool, or the tech nerds you know, or are just like how’s that work. 

Honestly my favorite reac­tion is from kids. It’s real­ly weird, but kids see my robots and they instant­ly don’t freak out, they’re not scared. They’re just like oh my god, it’s a robot, and they just run right towards me. I have many sto­ries of tak­ing my robot to the mall and then kids aban­don­ing their par­ents and being like, Robot!” And I’m just like, kid go back to your parent. 

So those are my three reac­tions I get when it comes to wear­ing my robot on the outside. 

Levin: I per­son­al­ly have very lim­it­ed expe­ri­ence. I’ve made maybe two robots, and I swore I was nev­er going to make one again because it’s just such a frus­tra­tion when they break. And there’s some ques­tions about whether you trav­el with a repair kit and what’s your field repair routine. 

Moss: I have a cus­tom repair kit that has a plug-in sol­der, some glue sticks that I’ve learned you can take a lighter and heat them up and use them as glue, and things like that. But I also got real­ly good in [indis­tinct] the design process. I’ll show you a good exam­ple real­ly quick with RX here. 

I made sure to put all his cir­cuit­ry pret­ty much in the head. So I can eas­i­ly fix any wiring issues by just pop­ping his head open. And then he’ll just do his thing with­out much of a prob­lem. You start get­ting real­ly used to design­ing things to break. So, I con­stant­ly might take things out. I kind of expect them to break. And I have a per­son­al rule that’s more of if it breaks it’s tech­ni­cal­ly work­ing because now I know how to fix it. 

Levin: There’s some ques­tions also about sort of how you feel about the Internet pres­sure to imme­di­ate­ly com­mod­i­fy the things that you love doing. 

Moss: It’s very weird. Honestly I don’t real­ly like it too much. I just got a TikTok like two days ago and I post­ed like a Hey, this is me video” and I already have like two thou­sand, three thou­sand fol­low­ers. And a lot of the com­ments I’ve been read­ing have been like oh this is great, or some of them are like, Hey, teach us,” or do this and do that. And at first I was very ner­vous to, but recent­ly I’m get­ting a lit­tle bit more con­fi­dent with it. So I’m feel­ing like there’s a need for this. So I’m feel­ing a lit­tle bit more inspi­ra­tion to do this because peo­ple are des­per­ate­ly ask­ing me on dif­fer­ent platforms. 

Levin: I think with that we’re gonna wrap it. Thank you so much Jayy. This has been amaz­ing. Maybe the last thing you could do is can you share a view of what’s on your desk right now? I think every­one would love—

Moss: Yeah. My desk cur­rent­ly is filled with a whole bunch of ran­dom lit­tle things. But in the cor­ner there are my favorite projects that I just keep on the side for I can always con­stant­ly look at them. And then of course my desk table is full of just like 3D print­ed parts right now because I’m still design­ing RX’s extra attach­ments. And things like that. My entire like background…there’s the peri­od­ic table up there for you know… My weak­est sub­ject is chem­istry. So I try to focus on that a lot now. But yeah. 

Levin: Jayy, thank you so much for shar­ing your work. It’s real­ly a plea­sure to have a view into into your world of fic­tion­al robot char­ac­ter side­kick wear­able car­toon char­ac­ter cou­ture devel­op­ments. Thank you so much. It’s been great. 

Moss: Thank you.

Levin: Folks, in just a few min­utes we’re gonna pick it up with Tatyana Mustakos at what is 2:30 PM Eastern time. So we’ll see you in a few min­utes. Thanks a lot.

Further Reference

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