The story that tells the truth is story number 2. This VU heritage object is a 'Jumping Jack' demonstration model.
1. 'Brammetje' from the shadow play
On 20 October 2005, VU Amsterdam celebrated its 125th anniversary. Like the centenary (in 1980), this occasion was marked by grand festivities. Various books were published, several films shown and multiple parties organised. The VU orchestra rehearsed compositions for a parade leading up to the VU campus. A number of student associations, staff collectives and the VU choir performed here. The Communications Department employees had made an particular effort. They had commissioned the instrument workshop to fabricate jumping and dancing dolls. These dolls put on a grand shadow play, using props such as caps, spectacles and moustaches to impersonate famous VU professors and characters. The cast included Rector Taede Sminia, the porter in the main building and last but not least Abraham Kuyper.
His doll is the only one to survive. Colloquially known as 'Brammetje' (Abe), it is now part of the heritage collection as a memento of this successful occasion.
2. 'Jumping Jack' demonstration model
Research into biomechanics and human movement sciences at VU Amsterdam goes back to the early 1970s. The principal architect of this research was G.J. van Ingen Schenau (1944–1998), who was ultimately appointed Professor of Biomechanics in 1992. While his initial research involved the biomechanics of walking, one of his students introduced him to the study of skating. He began measuring movement and force to understand the production and loss of human power.
On the back of his physiological research into muscle function and control, particularly of the calf muscle, Van Ingen Schenau's enthusiasm for speed skating resulted in the development of the 'clap skate' in the mid-1980s. To show the calf muscle in action during lectures and demonstrations, the 'Jumping Jack' exhibited here was developed. It still serves the same purpose at the Faculty of Behavioural and Human Movement Sciences to this day.
3. 'Marc' the social robot prototype
Not all research is a success story, as there is a lot of trial and error involved. The SELEMCA Research Group of the VU University Medical Center developed many prototypes of the famous care robot 'Alice', one of which was called 'Marc'. These robots were created to help combat loneliness among senior citizens. The scientists behind the design of 'Alice' mainly set out to develop software which could recognise, respond to and perhaps even convey human emotions. Matching this software to the right physical shape was a slow process.
In the end, the realistic appearance of the girl 'Alice' proved the perfect embodiment. This ideal choice marked the culmination of extensive investigations into the effects of silhouette, movement and timbre. 'Marc' made use of the same software interface as 'Alice'. This functionality allowed him to sway along, make subtle movements and use a pleasant male voice when linked up to a sound system. As a human face turned out to be indispensable, however, 'Alice' became a hit and 'Marc' a distant memory.