While its enjoyable for children to see their favorite Disney characters come alive, it isn’t the same for the humans who wear those burdensome suits. Besides, it’s often tiring for parents to guard the child’s fantasy bubble, hiding the fact that it’s just a human under the suit.
All that is about to change with this technology that brings animated characters alive in the form of robots.
While it’s trivial to replicate the appearance of a cartoon character, it’s anything but that to faithfully mimic the character’s motion. First off, cartoon characters don’t necessarily follow the laws of physics. And we aren’t talking about the gravity defying stunts. Even a simple walking style that is peculiar to a character may be inherently unstable when replicated in the real world. So obviously existing robots which are constrained to move like humans cannot be clothed appropriately and reprogrammed to mimic the movements of cartoon characters.
Therefore, the inventors at Disney have followed a ground-up approach of building robots from the scratch based on kinematics of the cartoon character.
Animation files describing the motion characteristics of a character are automatically analyzed to determine a skeleton that can mimic the movements in reality without being unstable. Based on this skeleton, legs and/or arms of the robots are constructed using 3D printing and suitable actuators are attached at movable joints. Further, the processors that control the actuators are programmed to cause motions at the joints that is a close approximation of the animated character’s motion, while preserving physical stability. As a result, not only would such a robot look like the cartoon character but it would also possess its motion style, without tripping over itself.
Publication number: US 9,427,868
Patent Title: Method for developing and controlling a robot to have movements matching an animation character
Publication date: 30 Aug 2016
Filing date: 24 Feb 2015
Inventors: Joohyung Kim; Katsu Yamane; Seungmoon Song;
Original Assignee: Disney Enterprises, Inc.