Till date, Disney has never failed to amuse us with its cartoon characters. Despite of existing in the market for nearly a century, it has not lost even a bit of its charm. Currently, to make its Disneyland theme parks more magical and charming, the research department of Disney is working on two-foot robots and animatronic characters that can move around and can give life to the cartoon characters in its animated films and TV shows.
A team of engineers from Disney Research in Pittsburgh and the Robotics Institute of Carnegie Mellon University are the mastermind behind the bi-pedal robot that can walk like specified 3d animation cartoons. The CGI animation studios of today, has programmed and devised the robots to walk exactly like the cartoon characters. Since the movement of the characters adds the personality factor, it make the robots more real. The researchers have 3D printed the robot’s leg components to blend and match with the structure of the virtual character. Standard servos were then used in the robots to bring life to the legs, not it has been angled and positioned to help reconstruct the movements of the characters without slipping or falling over.
Katsu Yamane, co-author of the research paper said, “researchers targeted on the robot’s saunter because walking is where physics matter the most. If we can find a way to make the lower half work, we can use the exact same procedure for the upper body.”
The biggest constraints of this recreation of the animated walk lies on the robotic legs. The team had challenges to design the legs to fit into the 3D-animated character forms and also make compromises while making the ankles. The animated ankle had nine-degrees of freedom to walk like the character which was not possible without falling down. So to maintain the motion without falling down, an extra motion was fixed in the hips and knees and it worked out.
In 2008, Lucky, a self-powered walking dinosaur was launched in Disneyland, California, which was a huge success within the masses. It was later introduced in other Disneyland parks in Hong Kong, Disney’s Animal Kingdom etc. This paved way to further research in the robotic versions of popular characters from Disney’s animated films. Kids can soon see their favourite 3D animated characters in real at the theme parks. Guess, the time for extinction for the costume wearers who entertain the kids at the theme parks is nearing.