Disclaimer: There’s a clip coming up at the end of this piece that … well, it’s quite likely to terrify any of you who grew up in the late 80s or early 1990s. Actually, scratch that: This video is going to be unnerving to anyone with functional eyes and a human soul, though it should be noted that anyone who owned a Teddy Ruxpin doll as a child will be especially susceptible to the clip’s dark charms. We’d like you to read through our text for an explanation of why the video exists before hitting “play,” so please, enjoy the following words before your entire day takes a turn for the creepy.
Now, back to the crucial info. Specifically, why this thing (officially it’s known as “T.E.D.,” an acronym that stands for “Transformations, Emotional Deconstruction”) exists. BoingBoing offers the following explanation, courtesy the official site of creator Sean Hathaway:
TED is a large, wall-based installation consisting of an array of 80 Teddy Ruxpin dolls that speak emotional content gathered from the web via synthetic speech with animated mouths. The speaking of the emotional content is accompanied by one of twenty-four musical vignettes that have been paired to the emotional content being spoken. Each vignette, representing one of twenty-four subtle variants of human emotion, have been composed in such a way that the beginnings and ends of the short pieces will seamlessly dogleg in any possible configuration and stream endlessly as a unified whole. The installation is allowed to drift about freely through the emotional landscape being driven only by those who are contributing content to the piece whether unwittingly or consciously. As such the overall presentation of the piece can vary greatly based on external conditions such as seasons, world events and even time of day.
Initially we viewed this oeuvre d’art as a particularly unsettling burst of retro fanboyism, designed to tap into the nostalgia of our generation like so many other recently crafted bursts of creativity, but on seeing it in action and reading the above description we’re quite impressed by the technological prowess that went into this beast. It grabs snippets of text from the ‘net then alters its speech/music patterns to accurately convey the emotional tone of whatever words it has chosen. “The piece is essentially taking the instantaneous emotional pulse of the internet and this collective pulse, like a human pulse, varies over time,” the description adds immediately following the above section, which, if you can forget the frightening aesthetics of the thing, is a very cool concept.
Our only remaining question is how versatile the installation truly is. For instance, could it be programmed to autonomously scan Twitter for various mood-related comments, then reply to each blurb appropriately? If so, how long would it take before the piece’s words become repetitive or it makes the mistake of improperly assigning emotional value?