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Technological Surrealism / Alec Nerds Out

Remote Control Eyebrows

A wise man once said: “What The World Needs Now Is [Remote Control Eyebrows].” Or something to that effect.

My dad’s got formidable eyebrows and it only seemed logical that my first foray into applied cybernetics should be this, for his birthday:

(Apologies for the video orientation.)

This is a simple circuit with an ATMega328 (a.k.a. the usual Arduino chip), an L293d quad H-bridge for the power switching to the motor, and a VS838 infrared receiver.

Brows breadboard

Brows breadboard

It’s mounted onto an old Petzl headlamp from my boy scout days. I hadn’t used it since I was a teenager, except for one canoe trip in my ’20s where it got laughed at for being so out of date.

The motors are a couple of little 6V beasties with gearboxes built in. They’re rated to turn at 60RPM, or one rotation per second. They’re fun to work with.

I pilfered the remote control from my truck stereo. Remote controls in vehicles never made sense to me anyway.

I attached sewing-machine bobbins to the motor spindles, and wound a little bit of thread around them. The eyebrows are attached by taping the thread to the skin just underneath — right above the eyelids — using a piece of band-aid adhesive. (A little piece of toothpick tied to the end of the string helps prevent it from slipping out of the band-aid.) I tinkered with attaching above the eyebrows but the effect wasn’t as good. (You could also make this into a remote-control smiler by attaching to the skin just below the cheekbones. Applications abound!)

Coding for this was a short, fun little exercise.


  • Coarse and fine-grained calibration controls in both forward and reverse
  • Joystick-controlled direct brow setting
  • User-controllable expression length
  • Direct-access waggle buttons, with 1-9 waggles, with arbitrary brow combinations
  • Safety first! All motor operations are speed- and time-limited, and the bobbins are mounted on the spindles in a way that’ll slip under tension.

A little bit of breadboarding…


Here’s the completed unit:

Did he like it? Check out this mixture of helplessness and suspicion:

Thanks for playing along, Dad, and happy birthday.

(I am intentionally avoiding the “raise a few brows” and “hair-raising” jokes. But don’t suggest I didn’t think of it.)

Categorized as: Uncategorized


  1. […] not sure that [Alec]’s dad actually requested remote-controlled eyebrows for his birthday, but it looks like it’s what he got! As [Alec] points out, his father does have very […]

  2. bobby says:

    nice project šŸ™‚ Are you powering your 6v motor with 3AAA batteries ? It only makes 4.5 volt, right ? why did you chosse this ?

    • admin says:

      Hi Bobby! The battery holder at the back of the headlamp is for a weird-looking 3LR12 battery, which is a 4.5v alkaline, though for now I’ve stuck a triple AA holder in its place as I don’t have a 3LR12. The ATMega328 takes up to 5.5v, so anything above that would require a regulator. The little geared motors are rated for 6v but run just fine at 4.5v. So sticking with 4.5v means I can avoid a regulator and still support the original 3LR12 battery in the bargain.

      I just used the AAA symbol because it was handy in Fritzing. I’m pretty sure AAAs would work just fine.

      My electronics shop had 12v geared motors that were cheaper, but the extra complexity would have eaten the savings there.

  3. […] there was a remote-control feature that could take of that for you? Well, thisĀ is exactly what the Maker decided to do as a birthday gift for his […]

  4. […] Alec Smecher hat seinem Vater zum Geburtstag ein Gadget aus dem Bereich »angewandte Kybernetik« gebastelt. NƤheres zum AugenbrauenkontrollgerƤt gibt es auf seinem Blog Cassettepunk. […]

  5. […] was a remote-control feature that could take of that for you? Well, thisĀ is exactly what theĀ Maker decided to doĀ as a birthday gift for his […]

  6. biotronic says:

    This needs a “Twitch plays Facial Expressions”

  7. […] is one of the greatest birthday presents we’ve seen. From Cassettepunk via […]

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