From the decades of fascination over robots that could actually roll around to search for light (Walter’s “Elsie”)…
I like light!
To the amazing evolution of Honda’s bipedal robotic research…
Honda’s commitment to walking robots
To world-wide competitions pitting bipedal robots of all kinds against each other to win aDARPA Challenge…
Many robots tried, many failed…
the world has been pushing for this moment.
One massive company, SoftBank, has purchased the best of the best robotics companies in the world. Now you have Boston Dynamics, Schaft, Aldebaran, and more under one roof. SoftBank picked up where Google’s “Alphabet” left off!
This could be the moment where we look back at in history and say:
“Huh. I really wish they paid attention to all the science fiction movies about robots killing people”
“Huh. It is amazing how all those companies came together to produce all these helpful, life saving, Earth-loving, non-polluting robots.”
Either way a shift just happened in robotics history. A huge telecom business bought the best robotics companies gaining most of the poker chips in this game.
Cheers to the (hopefully) bright future of robotics!
Everybody is getting information faster, trying to absorb it, learn from it, but it can be too much! With attention spans shrinking it becomes very difficult to help somebody learn history without poking them with a stick every five seconds.
We at Custom Entertainment Solutions do not endorse poking people with sticks.
Instead, we open creative, hungry minds to new information using animatronics!
The City of Belton, in conjunction with the local history museum housed in a 100-year-old train station, wanted to bring in more guests to view their railroad exhibit and assist in the learning of local history.
For example, the history of trains in the US is vast and contains many details that train aficionados hold dear. To tell a few minutes of detailed history to a child can be a challenge. But to have an animatronic robot tell it they become fascinated! Everybody is entertained. The best part: the story teller (animatronic) always tells it perfectly!
From the museum, “We are thrilled with our animatronic robot. It was so precious to see the children making him come to life with the touch of a button. It scared quite a few until their parents assured them that he was perfectly harmless. You can see the confusion and trepidation on some of their faces, but they definitely warmed up to him after a few minutes. There were older people, too, who were enthralled by him and listened to all the stories he told. One older gentleman, as he walked away, said, “Well, I’ll be! That’s amazing!” Many of the older folks also recognized Paul Brown’s voice from his radio and TV newscasts, so they had an added connection to the robot. He felt, to them, as if he were an old friend.”
Plastic, rubber, titanium, aluminum, glass, cement, all of these and many more materials can by 3D printed. You have at least 30 different types of 3D printing from FDM, SLA, CLIP, SLS, the list goes on and on. You can download FREE things to print! You can have it outsourced. But what most will not tell you: it takes hours, sometimes days, to print a part. Once printed that part has to be post-processed. Some call it “body shopping”. Basically you sand, you dissolve, you fill, you sand, you prime, you sand, you prime, etc. etc. If you bid out a simple part for a good quality print you will see the cost of printing…that said…we have many 3D printers in this studio! Of course it has its place, and sometimes they are running non-stop for days!
The thing is, so are our CNC mills and lathes at the same time. So are our band saws, belt sanders, Foredoms (rotary tools), vac forming tables, and more.
The point is this: we use whatever process is most efficient to produce the best quality part.
We design outer robot shell shapes and suit parts, those scream for 3D printing and composite work. Some organic sculpts from zbrush are perfect for 3D printing. But why would you spend hours, maybe days, 3D printing something you can make on a CNC mill in a few minutes out of a solid, engineering grade aluminum?
This is exactly the approach we took when designing the new Mecha X Robotic Hand.
The frame needs to be strong, have precise holes that will not wear with time, and be stiff enough to be very kinematically stable while having a wide range of motion. What is the best material for this: ALUMINUM! The CNC mill is right here, it takes minutes to program a simple part and another few minutes to have a very strong, reliable part that we can make beautiful through anodization. It will last hundreds of years!
But many people want to modify, “makers” and research companies alike. Typically fingertips need to handle different sensors and different styles of gripping things.
Why not use one of the best methods on the planet to make ANY shape you want to add to the Mecha X Robotic Hand…3D printing!
Most people have at least a cheap FDM printer, why not give you the creative freedom to make perfectly-fitting add-ons to your Mecha X Hand? This hand comes with 3 different designs, all ready to print on your FDM, SLA, SLS, whatever printing method you want. Of course you can design your own fingertips or pads, add sensors, do whatever you like! Now you have a strong, stable robotic hand to add your own touch to it.
This is exactly what team “Night’s Watch”, comprised of computer science engineering students in Tunisia, did when they participated in “The Microsoft Imagine Cup 2016”. They needed a prosthetic hand but could not afford the traditional prosthetic hand investment. 3D printing the entire structure was not a good solution as this hand needed to be strong and lightweight. They also wanted to customize the hand to take inputs from a “Myo” arm band. They succeeded in controlling the Mecha X Hand from an amputee’s forearm and won the competition!
The Mecha X Robotic Hand platform is here. It is ready for you to customize it and make it your own.
Anybody who has ever worked on a convention or trade show floor knows the goal is to generate valuable potential prospects by stopping them and scanning them.
Anybody who has ever attended a trade show knows that those people in booths are trying desperately to stop you and scan you!
Is there a way to make both parties happy? YES!
Animatronics are the key!
Case study: MEDRIO eClinical Solutions. Their booth has been filled with colorful backdrops, cool swag, excellent staff, and a lot of collateral hand-outs for years. Almost all booths in any convention also have these things. That is why MEDRIO decided to take a step outside the norm and invest in an animatronic mascot! Their mascot, Francois, was already present in their 2D animations and marketing, we just had to bring him to life…
MEDRIO let animatronic Francois perform non-stop all 5 days of the DIA (Drug Information Association) conference. The additional traffic animatronic Francois helped generate was higher than anticipated. See below:
“We chose Custom Entertainment Solutions to create our animatronic dog ‘Francois’ because they could accommodate the tight schedule due to an upcoming convention. They delivered, and the animatronic increased our booth traffic by 190% compared to previous conventions for MEDRIO. We will be adding more figures because of this proven ROI.” James Harrison, Director of Product Marketing, MEDRIO eClinical
Moving forward with animatronics
Whatever product or service you are trying to promote, there’s a way to do so using animatronics. The ROI is excellent, as mentioned above from MEDRIO. Simply let us know what you would like for your booth or walk around display. We can do the rest. We can design something specific to your needs.
Even if you are speaking the same verbal language sometimes it is very difficult to tell a story by only talking. With only sound and no visual communication there is little chance your perspective will be understood. Now try to imagine your audience does not speak your verbal language! How will you convince them you have a compelling story?
Visual 3D scale models are the answer!
Many times a court case will revolve around a key story the defense is making. This story, while it may be true, is not strong enough to stand on its own.
Even the most theatrical lawyer with amazing ability to explain a story by talking to a jury can fail miserably if the jurors simply do not understand. This becomes especially true with cases involving engineering / scientific evidence that are key to the defendants case. But what if that talented lawyer could use the one thing all humans have in common: 3D visuals. No matter your language if you see a model that actually physically shows the story the chances of winning a jury’s vote increase exponentially.
Models and more…
The courtroom example is only one of many instances that this type of communication can be crucial. Models are communication tools that can make a huge difference on a trade show exhibit, museum display, movies, and theme parks. They can explain and also entertain an audience, just by using the common communication between all of us, 3D.
Whatever product or service you are trying to promote, there’s a way to do so using models. Simply let us know what you would like for your booth or walk around display. We can do the rest. We can design something specific to your needs.
Animatronics might still be a relatively new technological invention, but our lives today would simply not be the same without it. From movies to museums, animatronic robots delight millions of people around the world every single day – and like people, they have enjoyed a pretty colorful life.
Custom Entertainment Solutions (CES) Inc. is always looking for ways to give back to the local Salt Lake City area. Therefore, it was without reservation that we agreed to sponsor the first ever animatronics team for the SLC Boys & Girls Club. The experiences we shared with the team were as much a learning experience for us as it was for them.
The team was comprised by a number of young people who showed an interest in animatronics and how they work. Our goal at CES was to teach the team members the basics of how animatronics are designed and created, along with showing them some of the technical knowledge that goes into creating animatronic movement. It was a pilot program and the first of its kind for the Boys & Girls Club.
The animatronics team was very careful to stress the team concept throughout the entire process. All of the design and sculpting was done entirely by the teens themselves, with supervisory guidance provided by CES president Josh Gray. In order for the project to realize its goals however, each of the kids had to fully participate. Each one also had to learn to work with the others.
While some parts of the project were tedious and challenging, each member of the team pulled together and pushed through. Perhaps the lesson of perseverance was the most important gleaned from the experience. The kids learned to finish what they started even though the process was not always sunshine and roses.
What They Accomplished
Despite having absolutely no experience in animatronics, the team created a working animatronic head based on their own designs. In a nutshell, here’s what they accomplished:
Design and Drawing – The first step in the creation process was to design the basic concept for the finished project. This included drawing out the ideas for what the animatronic head would look like.
Sculpting – The concept stage was followed by each team member creating a sculpture representing what he or she saw the finished head should be. The team then reviewed all of the sculptures, took the best ideas from each one, and amalgamated them into a single idea.
Molding – Making simple molds in the club facility showed the basics of mold making. This process can be extremely complex and it regarded as an art form in itself. The final head sculpt was molded by CES mold making interns.
Skinning and Painting – Finally, the team learned how to create a synthetic skin to cover the molded head. The skin was painted, the animatronics mechanisms added, and their creation finally came to life!
As team facilitators, we were thrilled to see all of the teenagers contribute to the success of the project. Many of them discovered they have skills and talents they did not previously know they had. Others learned the very important lesson of following through on your dreams and ambitions. Overall, it was a great project that CES was thrilled to be a part of. It is a program we hope the Boys & Girls Club will continue in the future.
You may be used to seeing animatronic figures of people, robots, maybe even cute animals at events. These have all sorts of internal mechanisms to make them perform. These mechanisms are hidden, they are not the “feature”. Ranging from hydraulics, electric servos, cables, levers, and more all that cool stuff is not available for your curious eyes to see!
Why not show that technology?
Sometimes companies that make high tech components need something different than an animated figure to show off their goods. Case in point: a state of the art fiber optic company has a very proprietary technology incorporated into their fiber optic bundles. Other than telling potential customers that their technology is superior, how to prove it? SHOW IT! But let’s not just put up a scope and a lens, why not make it work? Make it controlled my strictly mechanical (no electric, hydraulic, pneumatic) means to make a lens pan, tilt, zoom, and focus?
Enter the unexpected use of animatronics! Cable controlled animatronics have been around for decades. They need no power to work (other than human muscle power). It is a perfect solution, animatronics technology steps up and solves the design challenge.
The display to be used in trade shows and other events not only had to have those functions but had to be able to be controlled by an average person walking down the aisle and intuitively turning knobs on this display simply out of curiosity. It is FUN, and it accomplished a key objective: get their attention. And as they play around and look through a brilliantly bright image that is being piped into their lens it is much easier for a salesperson to tell them that bright image is brought to them by this amazing fiber optic bundle. The emotional curiosity of being attracted to a neat, shiny thing with cool knobs and stuff can smoothly be turned into a sales discussion to help that client feel comfortable with this new technology and bump up their confidence in purchasing.
Whatever product or service you are trying to promote, there’s a way to do so using animatronics. We just need to know what industry you’re in and the specific products you are focusing on for the trade show. We can do the rest. We can design something specific to your needs or we can provide you with one of our stock animatronic for sale.
One of the most fascinating aspects of the animatronics industry is creating lifelike representations of both humans and animals. Yet despite all of the intriguing elements of such design, the one thing that has plagued animatronic experts for years is coming up with a skin product that will move and flex in a way that accurately mimics human facial expressions. Even back in 1988, Stan Winston’s John Rosengrant and Shane Mahan were experimenting with different densities/softness in certain parts of Pumpkinhead’s face alone. Previous to this most animatronic skins made for theme park animatronics were (and in some cases still are) a flavor of vinyl that is about as stiff as shoe rubber!
Putting actual skin into the game is one of the most difficult aspects of human animatronics. The chosen material for any given project not only has to look realistic in terms of tone and color, but also in the way it moves and reacts to the underlying mechanisms that function as muscles. To the delight of animatronic designers everywhere, technology in this area is fast advancing.
Animals and Humans Are Different
When you are dealing with animals, skin is not as critically important. Why? Because most of the animals an animatronic studio might duplicate either have hair covering their entire bodies or their movements are somewhat limited. In addition, animals rarely provide facial expressions that need to be duplicated. That said, there has been some incredible work done for the very hairy gorilla-like creatures in “Attack the Block” where every muscle was sculpted and slid on top of each other in a spandex covering. Does it show under that 3” of black fur? That’s a good question…
When it comes to people on the other hand, facial expressions are an integral part of the overall presentation. We humans are trained to pay attention to facial expressions when communicating with other people, as those expressions give us clues as to an individual’s intent and purpose. So even when looking at animatronic figures, our natural reaction is to pay close attention to the face.
How Expression Is Accomplished
One of the services Custom Entertainment Solutions is now offering is our new Android Doppelgänger Replication. This service allows our customers to have a custom doppelgänger replicated for anyone, just by supplying us with photographs and a bit of information about the individual. Yet in order to make these doppelgängers as realistic as possible, we have to pay attention to the skin.
The proprietary composite polysiloxane material used for the skin must be implemented with the following considerations:
Color and Tone – Skin color and tone must be realistic down to the slightest blemishes that give a human face its character. A completely uniform skin tone with no blemishes looks noticeably fake.
Thickness – One of the ways we add realism to facial expressions is to adjust the thickness of the skin in specific locations. Thickness directly affects how the skin will move and change shape.
Fit – When we apply the skin to an animatronic face, it must fit a certain way in relation to eye sockets, ears, nose and mouth. Again, this will influence how the skin moves when the internal mechanisms are adjusted to account for facial expression.
Other Body Parts
Although the skin used for animatronic heads is of primary importance, other body parts need realistic skin if they play an important role in presenting an accurate allusion. Our Magic Animatronic Hands provide a good example. When animatronic hands need to realistically include motion, the skin must look and move as accurately as it does on the face. Fortunately, it is a lot easier to accomplish with hands.
Next time you consider all the work and effort that goes into making a realistic humanoid android, just consider how complex the skin is. And you thought skin was just a vehicle enabling you to get a good tan!
At Walt Disney World’s Magic Kingdom is the incredibly popular Hall of Presidents exhibit visitors to this exhibit are treated to lifelike animatronic figures depicting every U.S. president from George Washington to Barack Obama. However, would you believe some people refuse to go into the Hall?
It’s true. Some people just find animatronic figures too creepy to deal with. It’s no different from folks who will not visit a wax museum because the life-like figures give them the willies. There’s just something about re-creating human figures in lifelike form that creeps us out.
Always Something Missing
We don’t fully understand the creepy factor of animatronics, which is why the industry has yet to overcome the phenomenon. However, human behavioral experts suggest it might come down to an innate knowledge within the human brain that there is “something missing”. No matter how life-like an animatronic humanoid looks, we can’t deal with the fact that something is not right; something we cannot quite put our fingers on.
Experts suggest a couple of possibilities here:
The Eyes – It has been said many times over that the eyes are the window to the soul. When you look into someone’s eyes, you can generally tell their overall mood rather easily. Sometimes you can even tell what they are thinking. When creating an Android Doppelgänger extreme care and attention is given to the eyes for those reasons. The most subtle motion, lower eyelid squint, how much of the iris is visible, and 100’s of other factors beyond the simple eyeball up/down left/right motion are considered.
Facial Expressions – Some experts suggest that a lack of accurate facial expression is another part of the creepy factor. Custom Entertainment Solutions now offers an Android Doppelgänger Replication service, making it possible for you to have a custom doppelgänger made of anyone. As part of that service, we do our best to replicate facial expressions. This is not always as easy as a simple “smile” or “eyebrows up/down”. The uncanny valley is a very real thing that we must balance on when animating. On one side, if you make the motions on an ultra-realistic sculpture as real as possible you will inevitably miss something. That small “something” will trigger any human to feel terrified! The solutions we employ are stylization in either animation or sculpture.
Fluid Movement – Employing robust fluid movement in our animatronic projects is another option in our Android Doppelgänger Replication service. Using complex closed-loop control theory and advanced feedback sensors fluid motion can be robust and adds realism. So much so that we can fool people if lighting and distance are manipulated in relation to the animatronic subject. It could be that our brains have trouble processing realistic fluid movement in light of the fact that we know we are looking at an android. It could definitely creep some people out.
Android Doppelgänger Replication
What some of us in the animatronic business find so fascinating is that the creepy factor does not seem to apply with stationary products. For example, our new Ultra Realistic Artificial Hands are about as close to the real thing as possible. The main difference with these hands is that they are stationary rather than animatronic.
We have designed and built them so they can be posed in an almost unlimited number of combinations. However, because they are stationary, they do not seem to creep people out. Observers know they’re looking at something artificial so they are more likely to be fascinated by the realism.
Perhaps one day we’ll fully understand how the human brain works as it relates to animatronic humanoids. Many institutes, universities, and individuals are making progress in finding a bridge to this uncanny valley “creepy” effect. In fact we have created many different designs of humanoid heads for universities in Tokyo, Sweden, and Israel. The work that they and everybody else are doing may eventually lead us to overcoming the creep factor. It’s a daunting task indeed, but a challenge many are making exciting progress in!