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Amazing Anthropomorphic Disney Stunt Robots That Perform Autonomous Aerial Flips 60 Feet in the Air

Amazing Anthropomorphic Disney Stunt Robots That Perform Autonomous Aerial Flips 60 Feet in the Air 92

For over 50 years, Disneyland and its sister parks have been a showcase for increasingly technically proficient versions of its “animatronic” characters. First pneumatic and hydraulic, and more recently fully electronic, these figures create a feeling of life and emotion inside rides and attractions, in shows and, increasingly, in interactive ways throughout the parks.

The machines they’re creating are becoming more active and mobile in order to better represent the wildly physical nature of the characters they portray within the expanding Disney  universe. And a recent addition to the pantheon could change the way that characters move throughout the parks and influence how we think about mobile robots at large.

I wrote recently about the new tack Disney was taking with self-contained characters that felt more flexible, interactive and, well, alive than “static,” pre-programmed animatronics. That has done a lot to add to the convincing nature of what is essentially a very limited robot.

Traditionally, most animatronic figures cannot move from where they sit or stand and are pre-built to exacting show specifications. The design and programming phases of the show are closely related, so that the hero characters are efficient and durable enough to run hundreds of times a day, every day, for years.

The Na’vi Shaman from Pandora: The World of Avatar, at Walt Disney World, represents the state of the art of this kind of figure.

However, with the expanded universe of Disney properties including more and more dynamic and heroic figures by the year, it makes sense that they’d want to explore ways of making the robots that represent those properties in the parks more believable and active.

That’s where the Stuntronics project comes in. Built out of a research experiment called Stickman, which we covered a few months ago, Stuntronics are autonomous, self-correcting aerial performers that make on-the-go corrections to nail high-flying stunts every time. Basically robotic stuntpeople, hence the name.

I spoke to Tony Dohi, Principal R&D Imagineer and Morgan Pope, Associate Research Scientist at Disney, about the project.

“So what this is about is the realization we came to after seeing where our characters are going on screen,” says Dohi, “whether they be Star Wars characters, or Pixar characters, or Marvel characters or our own animation characters, is that they’re doing all these things that are really, really active. And so that becomes the expectation our park guests have that our characters are doing all these things on screen — but when it comes to our attractions, what are our animatronic figures doing? We realized we have kind of a disconnect here.”

So they came up with the concept of a stunt double for the ‘hero’ animatronic figures that could take their place within a show or scene to perform more aggressive maneuvering, much in the same way a double replaces a valuable and delicate actor in a dangerous scene.

Stuntronics – new robotic figure developed by Disney Imagineers – performs extreme aerial maneuvers 60 feet in the air, making real-time decisions for when to tuck, turn, and stick the perfect landing. pic.twitter.com/uzcTbjdNwh

— Disney Parks (@DisneyParks) June 29, 2018

The Stuntronics robot features on-board accelerometer and gyroscope arrays supported by laser range finding. In its current form, it’s humanoid, taking on the size and shape of a performer that could easily be imagined clothed in the costume of, say, one of The Incredibles, or someone on the Marvel roster. The bot is able to be slung from the end of a wire to fly through the air, controlling its pose, rotation and center of mass to not only land aerial tricks correctly but to do them on target while holding heroic poses in midair.

One use of this could be mid-show in an attraction. For relatively static shots, hero animatronics like the Shaman or new figures Imagineering is constantly working on could provide nuanced performances of face and figure. Then, a transition to a scene that requires dramatic, un-fettered action and boom, a Stuntronics double could fly across the space on its own, calculating trajectories and striking poses with its on-board hardware, hitting a target dead on every time. Queue re-set for the next audience.

This focus on creating scenarios where animatronics feel more ‘real’ and dynamic is at work in other areas of Imagineering as well, with autonomous rolling robots and — some day — the holy grail of bipedal walking robots. But Stuntronics fills one specific gap in the repertoire of a standard Animatronic figure — the ability to convince you it can be a being of action and dynamism.

“So often our robots are in the uncanny valley where you got a lot of function, but it still doesn’t look quite right. And I think here the opposite is true,” says Pope. “When you’re flying through the air, you can have a little bit of function and you can produce a lot of stuff that looks pretty good, because of this really neat physics opportunity — you’ve got these beautiful kinds of parabolas and sine waves that just kind of fall out of rotating and spinning through the air in ways that are hard for people to predict, but that look fantastic.”

Like many of the solutions Imagineering comes up with for its problems, Stuntronics started out as a research project without a real purpose. In this case, it was called

Amazing Anthropomorphic Disney Stunt Robots That Perform Autonomous Aerial Flips 60 Feet in the Air 93

The original BRICK

BRICK (Binary Robotic Inertially Controlled bricK). Basically, a metal brick with sensors and the ability to change its center of mass to control its spin to hit a precise orientation at a precise height – to ‘stick the landing’ every time.

From the initial BRICK, Disney moved on to Stickman, an articulated version of the device that could now more aggressively control the rotation and orientation of the device. Combined with some laser rangefinders you had the bones of something that, if you squint, could emulate a ‘human’ acrobat.

“Morgan and I got together and said, maybe there’s something here, we’re not really sure. But let’s poke at it in a bunch of different directions and see what comes out of it,” says Dohi.

But the Stickman didn’t stick for long.

Amazing Anthropomorphic Disney Stunt Robots That Perform Autonomous Aerial Flips 60 Feet in the Air 94

“When we did the BRICK, I thought that was pretty cool,” says Pope. “And then by the time I was presenting the BRICK at a conference, Tony [Dohi] had helped us make Stickman. And I was like, well, this isn’t cool anymore. The Stickman is what’s really cool. And then I was down in Australia presenting Stickman and I knew we were doing the full Stuntronic back at R&D. And I was like, well, this isn’t cool anymore,” he jokes.

“But it has been so much fun. Every step of the way I think oh, this is blowing my mind. But, they just keep pushing…so it’s nice to have that challenge.”

This process has always been one of the fascinating things to me about the way that Imagineering works as a whole. You have people who are enabled by management and internal structure to spool out the threads of a problem, even though you’re not really sure what’s going to come out of it. The biggest companies on the planet have similar R&D departments in place — though the ones that make a habit of disconnecting them from a balance sheet, like Apple,  are few and far between in my experience. Typically, so much of R&D is tied so tightly to a profit/loss spreadsheet that it’s really, really difficult to susurate something enough to see what comes of it.

The ability to kind of have vastly different specialities like math, physics, art and design to be able to put ideas on the table and sift through them and say hey, we have this storytelling problem on one hand and this research project on the other. If we drill down on this a bit more, would this serve the purpose? As long as the storytelling always remains the North Star then you end up having a guiding light to drag you through the pile and you come out the other end, holding a couple of things that could be coupled to solve a problem.

“We’re set up to do the really high-risk stuff that you don’t know is going to be successful or not, because you don’t know if there’s going to be a direct application of what you’re doing,” says Dohi. “But you just have a hunch that there might be something there, and they give us a long leash, and they let us explore the possibilities and the space around just an idea, which is really quite a privilege. It’s one of the reasons why I love this place.”

Amazing Anthropomorphic Disney Stunt Robots That Perform Autonomous Aerial Flips 60 Feet in the Air 95

This process of play and iteration and pursuit of a goal of storytelling pops up again and again with Imagineering. It’s really a cluster of very smart people across a broad spectrum of disciplines that are governed by a central nervous system of leaders, such as Jon Snoddy, the head of Walt Disney Imagineering R&D, who help to connect the dots between the research side and the other areas of Imagineering that deal with the parks or interactive projects or the digital division.

There’s an economy and lack of ego to the organization that enables exploration without wastefulness and organically curtails the pursuit of things not in service to the story. In my time exploring the workings of Imagineering I’ve often found that there is a significant disconnect between how fascinating the process is and how well the organization communicates the cleverness of its solutions.

The Disney Research white papers are certainly infinitely fascinating to people interested in emerging tech, but the points of integration between the research and the practical applications in the parks often remain unexplored. Still, they’re getting better at understanding when they’ve really got something they feel is killer and thinking about better ways to communicate that to the world.

Indeed, near the end of our conversation, Dohi says he’s come up with a solid sound bite and I have him give me his best pitch.

“One of our goals of Stuntronics is to see if we can leap across the uncanny valley.”

Not bad.

Source techcrunch.com

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Science & Technology

New Physics: Mysterious radiation pointed to the verge of discovering a “ghost” particle that makes up dark matter

New Physics: Mysterious radiation pointed to the verge of discovering a "ghost" particle that makes up dark matter 100
Photo: Daniel Molybdenum, NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center

Physicists at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory in the United States have found that the mysterious high-energy radiation emitted from the vicinity of a group of neutron stars may indicate the existence of axions – not yet discovered particles within the framework of New Physics, the search for which has been going on since 1977. It is assumed that special types of axions form dark matter. This is reported in an article published in the journal Physical Review Letters. The research is summarized in a press release on Phys.org.

It is believed that axions can form in the core of neutron stars and transform into photons in the presence of a powerful magnetic field. To detect the electromagnetic radiation associated with axions, you need to find stars that do not emit radiation at different wavelengths that can mask the desired signal. 

These objects include the Magnificent Seven neutron stars that emit only X-ray and ultraviolet radiation. They are located at a distance of 200-500 parsecs from the Earth.

The researchers ruled out the scenario that the excess X-rays produced by the Magnificent Seven are actually emitted by other, more distant objects. These sources would be found in datasets from the XMM-Newton and Chandra X-ray space telescopes.

The extra X-rays likely originate from axions hitting an extremely strong electromagnetic field billions of times stronger than the magnetic fields that could be created on Earth, the scientists concluded. The axions themselves resemble neutrinos in their properties, since both have insignificant masses and rarely and weakly interact with matter.

The axion is currently viewed as the most promising candidate for dark matter particles, since another hypothetical candidate, the massive WIMP particle, has gone unnoticed in experiments aimed at detecting it. 

In addition, there may be a whole family of axion-like particles that form dark matter, as suggested by string theory. If axions are found, it will prove that there is a whole new area of ​​physics outside the Standard Model describing the properties of all known particles.

To find out, the next step will be to study white dwarfs, which are not expected to emit X-rays.

“If we see an abundance of X-rays there too, our arguments will be pretty compelling,” said lead author Benjamin Safdie.

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The goal of human civilization is to create AI and disappear?

The goal of human civilization is to create AI and disappear? 101

Various sources often talk about civilizations that lived long before us. They all developed, prospered for a while, and then disappeared in an incomprehensible way. 

What is the reason for their decline, we probably will not know. All we can do is admire the remains of stone buildings, over which time has almost no power.

While looking for an answer, we somehow accidentally stumbled upon an interesting saying about the life of Japanese samurai: “A samurai has no goal, but a path.” In the end, the “path of the samurai” ended in what is known – death. The path of any civilization ended in the same way.

If you look at the issue through the prism of a samurai saying, then there is no point in looking for why and how civilization ended its existence. Probably, the process itself and its result are important here. But to whom is it important and what result does it expect?

Mysterious director

Apparently, behind the curtains of this “ancient theater” there is a mysterious “director” who periodically makes necessary adjustments to the history of civilization.

To figure out what’s what, you need to look at current trends in science. Where does a person strive with such an irresistible desire to “play God.” This attracts him and at the same time frightens him, but in no way turns him away from the intended path. Most likely, artificial intelligence (AI) is the purpose of our civilization’s existence.

About 50 years ago it would have seemed nonsense, but to someone, perhaps even now. However, if you trace the last 100 years of the life of our civilization, you get the feeling that most of the discoveries were given to mankind at the same time. A powerful leap has taken place in a hundred years. Why did it happen?

At the beginning of the last century, scientists recognized the existence of fields that have memory and the ability to store and transmit information. It is very likely that such or a similar field can be around the Earth and, more interesting, possess intelligence. Isn’t this the same “Director” hiding behind the screen of the “ancient theater”?

If this is so, then at a certain moment the “Director” gives the selected scientist “access” to certain knowledge (perhaps even in a dream, like Mendeleev), and another scientific breakthrough occurs in the world. Step by step, discovery after discovery, humanity is steadily moving towards the creation of AI. The trend is already well visible.

The goal of human civilization is to create AI and disappear? 102

AI is probably the next “Babylon”, which will combine all the knowledge, culture and accumulated experience of civilization. In the future, the neural network will enter into a connection with the general information field and leave humanity without knowledge, technology, and even a spoken language. This will be the next decline of civilization. And the “Director” will receive another array of new data (experience) in order to start creating a new civilization.

If someone believes that past civilizations ended in large-scale conflicts, then most likely this is already the consequences of “turning off” AI.

Co-founder of Skype talked about the threat of AI to humanity

One of the creators of the Skype internet call service, Jaan Ta

The goal of human civilization is to create AI and disappear? 103
Photo: 
© still from the movie “Terminator 2: Judgment Day”

llinn, said that the development of artificial intelligence (AI) threatens humanity. According to him, humans face three key threats, but it is AI that should be feared most of all, the expert said. 

Tallinn explained that at the moment, no one can predict what development AI will achieve in the next decades. In addition, the fact that scientists are creating artificial intelligence that can form a new AI without human intervention is also a cause for concern.

In addition, as the co-founder of the popular video calling service noted, the development of synthetic biology also causes concern. According to him, this direction in science allows the creation of artificial DNA sequences and biological systems that may not exist in nature.

Tallinn also drew attention to the fact that he fears we are entering an era of “unknown unknowns”, things that people are not even able to imagine right now.

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Volkswagen robot will autonomously charge cars: a working prototype presented

Volkswagen robot will autonomously charge cars: a working prototype presented 104
Copyright: © VW

The renowned German car manufacturer announced a new development. This time, engineers have created a unique robot capable of autonomously charging electric vehicles. 

For more than a year, specialists have been developing this project, but only now the concern was ready to demonstrate the first working prototype. The robot is ready to charge electric vehicles and has shown the high efficiency of this process.

It is called the Mobile Charging Robot, and experts have already compared it to the R2-D2 droid from Star Wars, including squeaks and clangs. Indeed, there is a similarity. Before implementing this idea, the engineers decided that robots should be allowed to charge cars parked in large residential complexes.

This will save their owners from leaving in order to find a gas station. Another advantage is that large parking lots and garages do not have to contain several expensive charging points for electric cars. The car company said in a press release that the robot works exclusively autonomously.

It independently controls and interacts with the vehicle being charged. It opens the cover of the charging socket and independently connects the power plug, then disconnects it. The robot looks like a trailer, which is a mobile energy storage.

It is capable of charging multiple electric vehicles at the same time. Despite the fact that the manufacturer confidently praises its concept, experts saw inefficiency in the fact that first it is necessary to charge the robot’s battery, which is then used to recharge electric cars.

Volkswagen Group Components CEO Thomas Schmall noted that creating an efficient charging infrastructure for the cars of the future is an important step in the company’s development.

Its engineers focus on finding solutions to avoid costly do-it-yourself measures. The mobile robot is only part of the concept that will continue to be developed.

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