When I display my automata at shows you can develop cramps from winding mechanisms. I would also rather talk to visitors than focus on turning cranks. I generally don't let visitors crank mechanisms until I determine they have the proper amount of respect for the work. My solution was to automate some pieces, have them not operate continuously, and not install permanent motors to try to stay true to the personal interaction a hand crack provides. The solution is a temporary driver I use for shows called "Conquergood Creative's Right Hand Man".
The output shaft has a 1/4" dowel that pushes on the crank handle of the automata to make it work. It's important, of course, to have the centre line of the Right Hand Man aligned with the centreline of the piece being cranked. I use a shim plate under the automata or Right Hand Man as required to do this. The box has an adjustable timer so I can set the time to run for anywhere from seconds to minutes. There is a fan inside just to keep things cool and a big push button on the top to actuate it.
I have three of these so I can run several pieces at once. When someone is walking by all I have to do is push the button and the action draws them in.
Automata is a creative blend of my life interests , engineering, art and woodworking.