Disney researchers have created a robot which does not only look like an animated character, but is also able to walk like one. This is a new method which enabled scientists to bring animated characters to life.
The automated robot was designed by a team of scientists from Disney Research in Pittsburgh in collaboration with the Robotics Institute of Carnegie Mellon University. They started from a 3D animated model which moves like an animated character and 3D printed the leg components of the robot in order to match with the structure of the cartoon character. The animation used as a model was a small, peanut-shaped character which moved with a rolling bow-legged gait. The robotic frame designed by the scientists was able to mimic the walking motion with the help of servo motors and 3D-printed links.
Katsu Yamane, the co-author of the study, explained that they concentrated on the stretch of the robot’s legs because walking is the most important part. If researchers can find a way to make the lower half function they can also use the same procedure for the upper body.
The analysis of the cartoon character showed that its foot and ankle had three joints and each one of them had three degrees of freedom. However the researchers considered that it would not be practical to introduce nine actuators in a foot. If the movement of the animation was used on a real robot it would not work and the robot would fall down since the walking motion in the animation could not be physically achieved.
In order to solve this problem the researchers added extra motion in the hips and knees. They examined the dynamics of the walking movement of the character and observed that the motion could be copied by constructing a leg provided with a hip joint which had three degrees of freedom, a knee joint provided with a single degree of freedom and also two degrees of freedom for the ankle.
So instead of duplicating the joint movements of the animations the researchers established the position trajectories of the hips, pelvis, knees, toes and ankles which the robot would need to mimic. The motion was altered so the robot would not fall down. For example the robot’s stance foot was kept flat on the ground. Afterwards they adjusted the trajectories in order to obtain the smallest possible degree of deviation from the desired motions and made sure that the robot was stable.
This invention is extremely important. From now on children could enjoy robotic versions of their favorite Disney characters, not only actors in character suits.
Image Source: Demanjo