September 2013: I’ve always been fascinated by wind-up toys, and even more by the advanced wind-up automata (plural of automaton) from the 17th Century. The clock makers Jacquet Droz and Maillardet made breath-taking automata that could draw write and even play instruments (that inspired LEGONARDO). Meanwhile, in Japan, wind-up puppets were created for home entertainment, or to be used in theaters. Their original name is Karakuri ningyō, that can be translated as “mechanical doll”. Among the small-sized Zashiki Karakuri, the tea serving one is the most famous. Such automaton has a mechanism that makes it go forward as soon as a cup is placed on the tray it is holding. It proceeds forward, and just before turning, it bows. That’s the signal to pick up the cup. As soon as you pick up the cup to drink, it stops. When you’re done with the tea, you place the cup back on the tray, and the automata finishes turning, and comes back to the point where it started. The timing for travelling, bowing and turning is controlled by cams. If you want to build your own Karakuri doll, there’s even a (freaking expensive) kit.