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Do you know that gay marriage is still not allowed in 75 countries? Do you know how that feels for the LGBTQ community in those countries? Marriage Machine is a physical installation showing you this fact visually, dynamically, more powerful than any data visualization on this topic.


Creator, Developer, Fabricator(Individual Work)


Arduino, Stepper Motors, Color Sensor, Woodcraft, Laser Cut


STEM Night, New York Hall of Science,  Feb 2017

ITP Winter Show, Dec 2016   


Nov-Dec 2016


While the whole United States was celebrating ‘Love Wins’, most counties around the world, people who are members of the LGBTQ community are still being shut the door upon their face by marriage.

However, as for many people, this fact is just a statistic data they read in the news.


In this work, I wanted to show the audience how ‘straight only’ marriage works and how many people’ life-long happiness are easily ignored by this system.




The way Marriage Machine presents the topic



Data visualization about gay marriage


Design decisions

1. Visual: the "toy-like" look

"Oh, I wasn’t expecting such a cute ‘machine’ is telling such a sad story!" said some audience during the shows. Cute and funny were the factors how this work got the audiences’ attention.

I made them toy like, not only because I didn’t want the experience to be all sad, but I wanted to show the fact that people’s happiness is played as toys. And the machine itself, wooden, rough, hand-made, not that accurate, looks like a toy someone made just for fun. Looks like the person who made the rules didn’t care. Just like how the real world works.

Those wooden couples in this work are toys, it’s true. But millions of flesh and blood gay couples, they are real.



2. Interaction: not fancy at all

The only interaction of this work is to grab and place the couples onto the conveyor.


A simple action made the connection between the audiences with the couple they grab, while curiously watching what is happening next, they started to care how it goes for them, and even cross figures to wish them luck to ‘cheat the machine’ or ‘escape’(sometimes the code wasn’t that accurate due to the interruption from the changing light)



3. Speed/Timing

The timing was the key of Marriage machine, the standard motor had to turn and hit the couples exactly when they get there, and had to hit hard and fast.


Consider how slow the pace is for the whole work, the hit looks even harsh and ruthless contrastively. Many audiences were shocked the first time they saw a gay couple got pushed down.




Early Sketch

The original plan was to make the piece automatic, the couples are pushed onto the conveyor. When the colored ones are rejected, they go through the process again and again but never will get married.



The biggest challenge was to make the conveyor roller, there were no exiting parts that designed for connecting a stepper motor to a roller. I tried with bronze nut, 3D printed parts that has a hole on one side to fit stepper motor and has three legs to hold the wooden stick on another, but it's hard to keep it at the center, I ended up drilling a metal stick into it to make it work.


color sensor test.gif
stepper motor.gif

Test with hand made roller for the conveyor


Using a motor driver board to make the stepper motor work with Arduino


Test color sensor with color papers. Found out color sensor is distance sensitive.


Test with a standard motor +  arm to hit



Marriage machine relied on all parts to work together so that the building had to be precise, where to mount each motor, leaving a groove to wire the color sensor, the length of the fabric had to be perfect to make the tension the conveyor needs.  Everything needed to be planned ahead.

Yet the headache was still the conveyor, the friction was either not enough for two materials to hold each other, or too much that the motor could not drive. After tested with more than five kinds of material, It finally worked out with canvas and wooden sticks.


laser cut.gif

Test friction with different materials for build the conveyor 


Make the main structure with pine wood


Mount the acrylic arm on the motor, and the motor on the machine


Test rubber as the conveyor 


Mount the stepper motor and the machine to drive the conveyor


Make the rollers for conveyor


Mount the color sensor


Laser cut the little "couples"


Make the little "couples"


how it works

Marriage machine示意图.png
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