I got this one from BoingBoing
Tea is being served. A great kit for robot fans and Japanese
Tea Server (Kit or Assembled)
Robotics and Japan seem synonymous. Today, Japan continues to push
the envelope of robotics, which happens to be a rich part of the
country’s history and culture.
An example of Japan’s first robot is the fascinating Karakuri: Tea
Server, designed almost four centuries ago and today remains a
remarkable example of Japan’s keen sense of robotics. What does it
do? This Kabuki-styled doll approaches surprised guests with a full
teacup on a tray; it stops walking when the teacup is taken, waits
quietly, bows, then slowly turns around, smoothly scooting away with
the empty teacup on its tray.
Originally designed as a luxury toy of feudal lords and successful
merchants in the Edo Period between 1603 and 1867. It was often used
more as a social ploy to break the ice and get the conversation going
between businessmen rather than to actually serve tea.
This kit is made of computer designed precision modern materials, but
is as close to the original design as possible. The driving force of
the original tea-carrying doll came from a spring made of whale
whiskers (actually whale teeth). All the other components, such as
its gears, body and escapement for speed adjustments, were made of
wood. How does it work? When a tea cup is placed on the tray, the
stopper is released by the whale spring attached to the doll’s arms;
the spring forces the stopper to engage again when the cup is lifted
from the tray.
The ornate Tea Server is an amazing reproduction of Japan’s rich
robotic design and is a perfect gift for anyone interested in either
robotics or Japanese culture. So whether you are a robot enthusiast
or happen to be in the market for an amazing creation to share with a
friend, the Tea Server--with its splendid Japanese craftsmanship--
will certainly capture your imagination.