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Puppet Kaos - where Kelvin Kao plays with puppets and tell random stories

Entering Puppet Design Contest (please vote for me!)

I am entering my puppet design into the Los Angeles Department of Transportation‘s traffic direction puppet design contest!

As many of you know, the traffic during peak hours in Los Angeles is awful. During these hours, traffic lights that are programmed using a specific pattern don’t always do the most effective job directing the traffic, and therefore, police officers are often sent out to direct traffic. They are professionally trained, and they can just react to traffic conditions on the spot creating a better flow of traffic. They direct traffic better than the traffic lights.

So how does this have anything to do with puppetry?

Well, the economy has been bad, and California is not doing well either. In addition to the sales tax increase in the near future, our state government is also trying to reduce spending. Some budgets for the police departments have to be cut as well. And we would rather have cops out there fighting crimes rather than standing in traffic, right? Besides, many police officers have been injured during traffic direction duties, so Los Angeles is now trying to replace them with robots… Well, I really consider them to be puppets rather than robots. What’s the difference? A robot thinks on his own and make decisions, while a puppet is always controlled by a puppeteer.

In this case, there will be puppeteers sitting in the control center, and they will control the motions (mostly hand gestures) of the robots (or puppets) based on the images captured by the cameras installed on the robot. And the puppeteers will then control the puppets to direct the traffic accordingly. To make these robots more human and friendly looking, they ask the public to submit their own designs. And that’s where I come in.

In the design I turned in, I dressed my puppet to look like a police officer because that’s people are used to. The puppets do not have movable eyes or mouths, because these are not very useful features. The puppets should have very visible hands though. I design the hands to be big so it’s easier to see. Also I use a shade of red for the skin tone, because red (like red lights) is more visible because red color light penetrates through fog (or in the case of Los Angeles, smog) better. Besides, this also contrast with the uniform’s color.

I don’t think I have a huge chance of winning, but it’s fun to participate and it makes me feel more like a part of the community. So yeah, it’s all good. If you would like to check out and vote for my design, click here.


  1. April 1st, 2009 | 6:14 am

    That is a beautiful, beautiful bit of construction.

    Mary Robinette Kowal’s last blog post..What a Giant Block of Foam can do for your career

  2. April 1st, 2009 | 10:57 am

    Thanks, Mary. It means a lot to me coming from you. :-)

  3. April 1st, 2009 | 12:27 pm

    I totally fell for this!

    Thanks for your comment on my blog, made me laugh :)

    Laura Roeder’s last blog post..The Utensil Method

  4. April 1st, 2009 | 12:46 pm

    Dang it, Kelvin. I thought we were above all of this.

    Sarah Bray’s last blog post..SEO myths de-bunked: Myth #1 – Link Clicking

  5. April 1st, 2009 | 1:28 pm

    @Laura: Thanks for dropping by. I don’t blame you for falling for it. It’s your first time visiting this site, after all.

    @Sarah: On the other hand, you should know better by now. So gullible. :-p

  6. Na
    April 1st, 2009 | 8:34 pm

    Man, that’s the second time today… :)
    Hilarious! And I was all set to vote for you too!

  7. April 1st, 2009 | 11:21 pm

    Aw, thanks. I’ll let you know next time I am running for mayor or something… 😉
    Yeah, time zone difference sucks in this case. I missed April Fool’s Day with friends in Taiwan.

  8. April 2nd, 2009 | 5:00 pm

    Fell for this. Brilliant!

    (A bit late to the party as usual.)

    Vered – MomGrind’s last blog post..Teen Fashion

  9. April 2nd, 2009 | 6:05 pm

    Okay, now I am seriously considering putting up a sign that says “People! April 1st is over! Y’all need to stop falling for this one.” 😉

  10. April 5th, 2009 | 5:12 pm

    You got me. I clicked to send in my vote. I did think that puppeteers controlling traffic remotely sounded a bit… unlikely, but you never know in California, right? Good one Kelvin!

    Melissa Donovan’s last blog post..18 Do-it-Yourself Proofreading Tips

  11. April 6th, 2009 | 2:59 pm

    So that’s the kind of reputation we have in California, huh? Hehe. :-)

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