Research Study: Revisiting a Previous Project

Two years ago, with another student, I built a robot to lick lollipops. The robot functions, but I think more can be done with the concept; the piece consistently elicits references to the 1970 Tootsie Pop commercial (the one that posits the question about how many licks it takes…) from those I’ve shown it too, although it was never intended as a reference to the question. Creating a new piece with a tongue more mimetic of an actual tongue (compared to the sponge used in the original), a lick counter, and potentially an [initially hidden] ability to bite the lollipop before licking to the center, could turn this largely meaningless robot into a piece of art that toys with human curiosity, satisfyingly references an influential pop culture artifact, and includes elements that illicit surprise or frustration in viewers.

This piece primarily bases its inspiration in two aforementioned sources: my former lollipop licking robot (1) and the 1970 Tootsie Pop commercial (2). A compelling presentation of the robot in video format could also take influence from the format of a show like Mythbusters (3), with its habit of over-engineering solutions to answer largely scientifically unimportant questions in the popular consciousness. Lastly, the piece would likely take an appearance of disembodied, artificial body parts housed in a sterile, inorganic chassis, similar in aesthetic to work such as Simone Giertz’s Musical Instrument Made from Teeth (4).

This new iteration of the licking robot might integrate a simplified version of Lu’s, Xi’s, and Li’s soft robotic tongue (5) from the first homework assignment. The ability to incorporate biomimetic movement into the piece would be necessary in visually telling the full story. Furthermore, an artificial jaw would be implemented in the piece to give the biting action somewhat reasonable articulation. This jaw might be inspired by the mastication robot by Lee, Kim, Chun, and Park (6).

  1. Paul Park, Sebastian Carpenter. “Lollipop Licker.” Computing for Creative Practice, F18, Prof. Golan Levin, Carnegie Mellon University. November 2018. url:
  2. “How Many Licks.” Tootsie Roll Industries. 1970. url:
  3. Peter Rees. Mythbusters. Discovery Channel. 23 January 2003 – 28 February 2018.
  4. Simone Giertz. “Building a Musical Instrument Out of Teeth.” 16 September 2020. url:
  5. X. Lu, W. Xu, X. Li. “A Soft Robotic Tongue—Mechatronic Design and Surface Reconstruction.” IEEE/ASME Transactions on Mechatronics, Volume 22, Number 5, Pages 2102-2110. 2017. doi: 10.1109/TMECH.2017.2748606.
  6. Seung-Ju Lee, Bum-Keun Kim, Yong-Gi Chun, Dong-June Park. “Design of Mastication Robot with Life-Sized Linear Actuator of Human Muscle and Load Cells for Measuring Force Distribution on Teeth.” Mechatronics, Volume 51, Pages 127-136. 2018. doi: 10.1016/j.mechatronics.2017.11.013.

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