The next challenge: Wilder had never built a robot. resourcefulness of a natural world that can produce
He checked out every book on robotics and Lego something as wondrous as a carnivorous plant, he says
his goal was to “make a sublime machine.”
from the public library and spent his evenings reading.
There were many more challenges to overcome:
“Can I get Lego to do ¹/10 of a degree rotation? back and forth, the rotation module rotates a flower
Can I get a Lego car to drive ¹/10 of a millimeter? pot, and the cable release module pushes the trig-Will the Lego microcomputer tolerate being on 24 ger on a camera remote to take the actual pictures.
hours a day for two weeks? For a year? Will my Wilder composited the alternating left- and right-eye
camera?” Lighting was also a problem: plants (and images into a single movie using a piece of Japanese
the insects they may eat) need light to grow, but it freeware that adjusts the colors to use classic red-may not necessarily be good light for cinema. and-blue 3D glasses.
His consultations with experts were not encour- After 18 months of filming, scripting, animating,
aging. “I had a guy who
had a Ph.D. in physics tell me, ‘You’re insane. “I had a guy who had a Ph.D. in physics
Even if you had a real robot, it would be really tell me, ‘You’re an idiot if you think you
hard to pull this off. There’s no room for can do that with Lego.’”
error. If the two camera
positions are A and B, it
always has to be A and B because you’re trying to and editing, Wilder produced a 20-minute DVD
create the illusion that a 3D camera is on a tripod. It called The Carnivorous Syndrome in 3D. Although
needs to be A and B every single time. You’re an subtitled “Our curious universe, science adventure
idiot if you think you can do that with Lego.’” no. 5,” it’s not a parody, but an earnest attempt at
Wilder was determined to prove the naysayers updating the genre. The soundtrack to the piece
wrong. “I don’t care if this is an impossible movie. I consists of ambient electronica, and the graphics
don’t care if the physicist says it can’t be done. IMAX have the cool detachment of a minimal techno CD.
has not dared to do it, or the BBC. I’ll do it. And I’ll The Carnivorous Syndrome in 3D is available as a
do it with Lego because that will be beautiful.” He DVD directly from Wilder’s website,
succeeded. The robot’s name is Jasper.
Controlled by a single Lego Mindstorms RCX
brick, Jasper consists of three parts: the juxtaposition module moves his Nikon Coolpix 4500 camera
Mike Kuniavsky is a San Francisco- and Portland-based
ubiquitous computing and user-experience consultant and
writer who blogs at