by Miryam Muller in

Developed by American mechanical engineering grad student Jeff Kessler, 'TJ*' is a customizable robot puppet, designed as a remote-control toy for kids or tinkering platform for budding programmers and digital artists. The head is composed of fiberboard or coloured plastic, with two eyes that move up/down and left/right, controlled by three micro servo motors. An optional arduino remote can be used to control 'TJ*', or users can develop their own on any servo controller platform. Record-playback for activity is built into the device, in addition to live control.

Already fully funded but still accepting pre-orders on kickstarter, the mechanical puppet is designed to offer a toy that grows with child users. While early ways of interaction might be decorating and creating accessories for 'TJ*', children can then use it as a star in skits or videos, before being introduced to software development by beginning to write code to add new functionality.

Expected to be ready in june 2012, the basic DIY kit will be available for 60 USD. Add-on options include an arduino controller, coloured plastic rather than fibreboard, and LED rather than normal eyes. The next-generation 'emotive TJ*' will feature movable eyebrows and mouth.

kessler plans to start a 'TJ*' youtube channel once the product has been released as a user-created showcase of creative projects utilizing the puppet.