Connect with us

Science & Technology

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

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

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.

“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.”

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

Comments

Science & Technology

Japan has developed an inflatable scooter that weighs practically nothing

The University of Tokyo engineers have developed the Poimo inflatable electric scooter, which is created individually for each owner. It is enough to send your photo to the manufacturers – and a personal optimized model will be assembled for you.

The scooter is designed with a special program for the body size of a particular user and his specific fit. Moreover, each owner is free to make any changes to this model. If he makes any changes to the drawing, the program will automatically redesign the electric bike to maintain its strength, stability and controllability. When the model is finished and approved, it is handed over to the manufacturer.

Scooter Poimo

The scooter consists of seven separate inflatable sections that are constructed from durable fabric and sewn with straight stitch. It remains to add electronic components – in particular, a brushless motor and a lithium-ion battery. 

The finished electric scooter weighs about 9 kg and can travel at speeds up to 6 km / h (that is, slightly faster than a pedestrian). It can work for an hour on one charge.

This is how the current version of Poimo looks like in action:

Continue Reading

Science & Technology

Excerpts from Elon Musk’s speech at the Martian Society convention

Elon Musk’s comments with questions relayed from the Mars Society Membership by Dr. Robert Zubrin, James L. Burk, and Carie Fay. Following Elon’s 30 min time, Dr. Zubrin took additional questions. This special event was part of the 2020 Mars Society Virtual Convention from October 14-18, 2020.

About Starship Test Schedule:

– entering orbit – with a probability of 80% -90% will take place in 2021

– the probability of the return of the ship and the 1st stage in this flight is 50%

– test of refueling in orbit – 2022

– Starship lunar version – 2022 or 2023

– Starship flight to Mars – around 2024

The goal of the Starship is to build a self-sufficient settlement on Mars as quickly as possible. Musk does not rule out the possibility that this will not be achieved during his lifetime. According to his rough estimates, to create a self-sufficient city, it will be necessary to deliver 1 million tons of cargo, which corresponds to 4-5 million tons in a low Earth orbit. Modern single-use launch vehicles are capable of removing less than 1% of this value.

“Disposable launch vehicles are completely stupid. They are a waste of time. I think people need to stop wasting time on this. If you try to sell a disposable plane, you will be thrown out of the office. If you try to sell a disposable car, you will also be thrown out of the office. “

A series of questions and answers followed:

What is the best landing site on Mars?

– I’m not sure about that. But I can name the criteria. The first of these is latitude: most likely it will be in the northern hemisphere, far enough to the north to have water ice, but to still have enough sunlight.It also needs to be low to get the most benefit from atmospheric braking.

How do you prioritize mission priorities: research, infrastructure construction, and science?

– The first will be the construction of a fuel plant.

A question from a teenager who wants to become an engineer and robot maker with a dream to work at SpaceX: what is the most important education in order to become an engineer?

– There are many varieties of this profession: you can be an aerospace engineer, in the field of electronics, software, or a chemical engineer involved in creating safe production of fuels. I think physics is a good foundation for critical thinking.

Boring Company was originally conceived as a tunnel manufacturing firm on Mars?

– No. It was originally something of a joke. I thought tunnels were a good solution to reduce the traffic problem in cities and improve the quality of life by turning parking lots into green parks. To do this, you need to go to 3d [get away from the “flat” infrastructure – approx. per.]. I think tunnels are good for Mars too. But there you need a lot lighter equipment: you don’t care about mass on Earth, but you will have to take care of it a lot when going to Mars.

At Boring Company, have you learned a lot of technology that might come in handy on Mars?

– I think, yes.

Do you have any tips for young people who love Mars but don’t know how to participate in its settlement?

– I think any strong advocate of the need to conquer Mars matters. People often don’t even think about it. I often talk to people who don’t even know about it. Therefore, I consider it important for humanity and consciousness in general to bring a discussion about this to society. Talking about it with friends and acquaintances – I think this is what we should do. In my estimate, we will spend less than 1% of our efforts on Mars exploration, exactly less than healthcare, perhaps even less than cosmetics – this will be enough to make life multi-planetary. But this requires people to start talking about it 100 times more often. I think this is what really matters. [the entire cosmonautics of the world is $ 424 billion a year, while cosmetics is $ 532 billion, and tobacco production is $ 849 billion – approx. per.]

What’s the coolest part about Starship development?

– I think the coolest detail is the ability to work with a great group of engineers and come up with interesting solutions. I think the best thing is the opportunity to work with smart and creative people who come up with solutions that were not available before. This is a great reward.

What do you focus on when hiring, especially with regard to engineers?

“We’re looking for signs of exceptional ability. Or at the very least, striving to do exceptional things at SpaceX.

Are you planning to make a Mars-Earth communication system like Starlink?

– Yes, I think we will use a laser, probably launched into orbit, to avoid atmospheric diffraction. Thus, it will be a laser beam going from the orbit of the Earth to the orbit of Mars. And also relay satellites in solar orbit, since the laser beam cannot be sent through the Sun [when it is between Mars and Earth – approx. per.].

Can Starship be used for other destinations like Venus and other planets?

– Starship will be able to travel to any target in the solar system that has a solid surface when fuel depots appear. It is not the kind of transport that will take us to other stars, but when we become a multi-planetary species, we will create a demand for innovation in space travel that will ultimately lead us to interstellar travel.

Continue Reading

Science & Technology

Cern Scientists Plan an Impressive Experiment – They Will Come Into A Parallel Universe

Cern scientists are once again preparing to impress the entire planet and become the focus of discussions with the new experiment they are planning.

An experiment that, if it brings the fascinating result that scientists have in mind,  will change the way we think about the world , will take place in the next few days at the Large Hadron Collider, the European nuclear center, Geneva CERN Research.

The astonishingly LHC complex, the largest, most energetic elemental accelerator in the world,  will be “fired” for the first time to its highest energy levels, in an effort to detect – or even create – tiny black holes. 

If it succeeds, then, a completely new universe will be revealed – rewriting not only the books of physics, but also the books of philosophy! 

It is possible, however,  that gravity from our universe will “leak” into this parallel universe, as LHC scientists say. 

From the Higgs boson to dark matter and the parallel universe

According to the British Express, the experiment is sure to “trigger” the critics, who are worried about the LHC, many of whom warn that the elementary particle accelerator will mark the end of our universe, creating a of the black hole.

Nevertheless,  Geneva has remained … intact since 2008, when the LHC began its spectacular “work”.

The first scientists at the Large Hadron Collider proved the existence of the Higgs boson – a key building block of the universe – and the LHC appears to be on track to locate “dark matter” – a previously undetectable force now considered that it constitutes the majority of matter in the universe, being, in fact, the reason why the latter is constantly expanding and moving away. 

So next week’s experiment is considered to change the game. 

The truth is out there

Mir Faizal, one of three heads of the three natural groups behind the experiment, said: 

“Like many parallel sheets, which are two-dimensional objects (width and length) can exist in a third dimension (height) , so parallel universes can also exist in higher dimensions. We anticipate that gravity can leak into extra dimensions, and if that happens, then tiny black holes can be produced in the LHC. 

Normally, when people think of the multiverse, they think of the interpretation of quantum mechanics by many worlds, where every possibility is realized. This cannot be tested and so it is a philosophy and not a science. We do not mean this with parallel universes. What we mean is real universes, in extra dimensions. The truth is out there.”

Continue Reading
Advertisement

DO NOT MISS

Trending