From the “golden era” of animatronics in movies to animatronic robotics in theme parks and museums, here is our top 10 breakdown!
First thing’s last:
Position 10: Universal Studios Hollywood Jaws shark on Back lot Tour circa 1980’s
WHY? With all due respect to this old guy, it tries to scare adults (kids are easy to scare, no points there!) by sliding up an underwater track and bobbing its head up and down with jaws opening and closing. That is kind of cool, but the BEST part about this “Bruce” imitator is that after the tram moves to the next attraction you can watch the shark “swim” backwards! So funny that the tour guides point it out. Please note that this is referring to the 80’s, the shark has become much more scary since then!
Position 9: The real Jaws great white shark AKA “Bruce”
WHY? This classic movie is in many way a classic because the animatronic shark did NOT work except for only a few shots! Spielberg’s intention was to have it revealed in the first attack of the skinny dipping girl in the first few minutes of the film. Imagine if you saw the pivotal antagonist scary great white monster immediately…how scary would the scene where it bobs out of the water to try to eat Roy Schieder’s chum be? A huge challenge for any machine is sea water, and in animatronics for film there is generally never anything but prototype #1. No time to test this great beast in water until shipping it to Martha’s Vineyard. It rarely worked, but that it worked at all we say cheers and well done to Bob Matty and his crew!
WHY? If you grew up with the original Jedi you can’t forget how fun it was to see this “disgusting blob” on film. If you saw this with the right kind of eyes it was a great character. If you looked at it with cynicism you saw a silly big rubber worm that spoke in a loud booming goofy voice. If you think about it, it was REAL. It was THERE on set. Hot Princess Leia was actually lounging on a big rubber animatronic, not a chromakey-green pillow. There were 5 guys inside the thing on set, a little person working the tail “backwards and forwards!” and a guy whose sole job was to smoke a cigar and blow it through a plastic tube that went out the corner of Jabba’s mouth to give the in-camera smoke from the hookah! If you’ve been on set you can relate to the high level of stress, now take that and wrap yourself in sulfer-stinky foam latex with a few other guys under hot lights. NOT easy work! But it pays off. It’s fun to watch! And the real practical Jabba looks amazing compared to his CG counterpart! What happened? Computer Graphics are a great tool, but more often than not shouldn’t be used. This is a perfect example of trying to fix something with CG that was not broken.
WHY? Genius prodigy of Dick Smith, Rick Baker made history by winning the first Oscar ever for “Best Makeup” in 1982. The design of the stages of makeup transforming David into a werewolf are classic. The execution, simple and effective. Animatronics actuated by 2 syringes and a plastic hose? Brilliant! And that’s what made the face-stretching shots incredible. “Change-o-heads” for intermediate transformation and final stages show a great mind designing an animatronic effect that is flexible and optimized for minimal time between takes…brilliant! Let’s not forget the animatronic Dead Jack skull…
WHY? No more cables! Not only was Harry a great design given the challenge of making a Bigfoot creature that can be both scary and also endearing the head was a technical breakthrough. Cables were the most popular way up to this point to actuate all the different parts of an underskull to make facial expressions. Rick Baker and his team broke the mold by making Harry completely free and self-contained. This gave director William Dear freedom to put Harry wherever he wanted, now an animatronic creature could be treated exactly like an actor taking real-time direction without re-set down time between takes.
WHY? You might think we would immediately jump to the amazing Queen Alien, but this film has some other very clever animatronics. The facehugger running across the med lab floor was more or less a pull toy with a simple mechanism to make the tail wiggle. The visceral shock reaction inspiring facehugger in the specimen tube in the med lab, classic! And yes, the Queen…AMAZING work on both the full scale and smaller scaled puppet. Full scale introduced hydraulics for the first time to Stan Winston Studios in the form of a boat’s steering hydraulic cylinder operating the neck of the heavy head. Very clever approach to making the odd spindly arms and overall form hiding two performers strapped together in the Queen’s chest. Overall a classic film containing too many amazing effects to mention in this short list.
WHY? Rick Baker’s team and especially Mark Setrakian made this animatronic one of the most beautifully articulate and perfectly pupeteered in movie history. If you watch him very carefully almost every nuance of motion and small details in puppeteering match the emotion and speech perfectly. So this ranks high not only because of the beautiful and intricate mechanical design but especially because of the incredibly realistic performance this little actor made.
WHY? Before the T Rex made by Stan Winston Studios there was never a creature this size that worked well mechanically. Jaws “Bruce” did not work as planned for example. King Kong Lives full size Kong had many issues. Stan’s T Rex was huge and delivered a great performance! Using extremely advanced controls similar to those used in advanced manufacturing robots, T Rex had incredible hydraulic power, speed, and smooth motion. Yes…when it got wet it got the “shakes”. BUT that was due to the fine tuning that allowed the Rex to move smoothly under normal conditions. Simple amazing performance, enormity of size, and amount of courage from Stan Winston and his crew to even say “yeah, we can do that”. Well done sirs!
Position 2: Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters Edward the Troll
WHY? This animatronic character showed that CG characters are not nearly as convincing and fun as actually having a practical physical animatronic character on set. Another actor among actors that can react immediately to reflect and enhance human performances. Something real they can see. Bigfoot Harry did the same thing way before CG had taken over real effects. Edward showed that if the director had the courage to commit to a character before shooting a frame of film the performance on set makes a huge difference not only in interaction but in the “reality” of the film. To Mike Elizalde, Mark Setrakian, and the rest of Spectral Motion we say well done sirs!
WHY? This animatronic figure is the grand-daddy of them all! Walt coined the name “Audio Animatronics” (AA) to describe this new technology. Groundbreaking work done by his team of imagineers, this figure inspired so many to pursue engineering, mechanical design, programming, control theory, and much more to children world wide. Uncle Walt, we thank you for creating this field!
Alarm systems and 24-hour monitoring are great tools for home security. But how would you like to enhance the effectiveness of those security solutions with some exciting new technology destined to take yours to the next level? Now you can with custom animatronics.
If you’re not sure what we mean, just think about those life-size animatronic figures you’ve seen at museums or large theme parks in Orlando, Florida. Oh yes, now you’re getting it.
Imagine a life-size and realistic animatronic torso you can set up in a strategic location to fool burglars when you’re not around. Perhaps your new security guard could be watching TV; or maybe you can position him so his silhouette can be seen through an upstairs bedroom window. The subtle movements offered by custom robotics can bring him to life long enough to cause a burglar to move on.
You’ll Be Amazed at the Possibilities
The suggestion to use animatronics as an enhancement to home security may sound a little far-fetched, but you really need to see what modern technology can accomplish to understand the possibilities. As a specialist animatronic company, we can make a life-size robot with features and motions so realistic they can easily fool at a distance.
If you are not sold on the potential of custom androids, we can also build smaller, non-humanoid robots that you can program to move randomly around your house. A burglar looking to get inside would have no idea if one of these robots were acting independently or under the guidance of an operator. That little bit of doubt is all that is needed to scare many burglars away.
Animatronics Are Fun As Well
When you are home and not worried about burglars, animatronics are also a lot of fun. Imagine the conversations you’ll have with guests when they see a life-size animatronic version of you seated at the dining room table. Or amaze them with a robot that actually blinks its eyes and speaks. It’s simply amazing.
Robots make great gifts for the kids, too. They provide endless hours of entertainment and instruction at the same time. Little minds want to know how these things operate, so they could even open a whole new door opportunity to teach your kids about science. Animatronics for the home is an idea whose time has come.
Part of an Overall Plan
Hopefully you are intrigued about the idea of using animatronics as part of your security strategy. If so, be sure to consult with your alarm and monitoring company as to how they can be integrated with your overall security plan. Together there are many ways you can put animatronics to use for enhanced security.
In the meantime, we’re able to create just about any sort of animatronic you can imagine for pleasure, business, promotional purposes, public memorials, etc. All we need are the details of what you are looking for and we can do the rest. If you’d like more information about our animatronics for sale, please don’t hesitate to contact us.
Back in the 1980s and 90s, trade shows were all the rage for everything from retail cleaning products to medical devices. But let’s face it, even though such shows are still being used around the country, they are dropping in attendance about the industry in question. If you’re a salesperson, you need something special to get the attention of potential customers.
We Suggest Animatronics!
We all know this is a technology driven world where customers are excited by new gadgets and new ways of doing things. You might not be able to spruce up your presentation of the latest broom handles using a computer slide show and some creative music. How many times have your prospects walked right by your $$$ booth? You WILL get their attention with a robot hand that demonstrates your new broom and then offers a firm, businesslike handshake.
Imagine the sort of traffic you’d drive to your booth if everyone knew they could shake the hand of a robot. With a little creative programming that hand could also serve coffee, offer a business card, or any number of tricks to excite the eager crowd. And once you have their attention, you can use the custom animatronics to demonstrate your product or service.
More than Just Hands
We used the example of the robot hand because it is easy to put into context. But you don’t have to settle for a hand if something else would be more appropriate. There are custom animatronic heads, feet, and complete Custom Androids. There are even custom robotic devices that look nothing like people or their parts. We make whatever you would like.
Whatever product or service you are trying to promote, there’s a way to do so using animatronics. 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 Make Great Promoters
Animatronic are great as promotional tools because they stimulate the imagination. I remember even as a child a relatively dumb prop of a robot (it didn’t even move) in front of a theater. You bet I dragged my parents in to see the film. AND we kept going back to that theater, even when the removed the robot display…
Think of it this way, there are three things that act as the primary drivers of sales: Shiny things. I mean that the emotional response, ALWAYS, will beat any technical information about your product. Believe me, I used to sell Computational Fluid Dynamics software! Some of the most physics-heavy software there is. And the software had an interface only PhD’s would appreciate. BUT I made hot, fun, crazy images from the post that would WOW people into stopping. That is all I need, prospects stopping. Conversations starting. DONE. Scanned. Distribute to the regional salesperson. 80% of the time it led to a sell (depending on that salesperson’s talent 😉 ) . STOP THEM. I threw foam boomerangs for a while, no kidding, and hit the ones I knew were high level prospects. Not cool, but it worked-ish. If I had an animatronic that had something to do with what I was trying to sell then the ROI would be done in 2 tradeshows.
So, have we convinced you of the promotional viability of an animatronic device? If so, we’d love to work together and find out how we can build your revenue stream. If you have a trade show coming up this year then it’s time to start thinking about your booth right now.
Let’s get together and build you your very own animatronic trade show “handshake”. You’ll be the talk of the show long after it’s over.
If you’ve recently been to the movie theater to see an awesome film you may have asked yourself, “how do they do that?” There are many things going on in films that make you question what is real. However, in the world of animatronics and robots, defying human understanding is becoming fairly commonplace.
For example, in one of our recent blog posts we featured an animatronic arm and hand combination that doubles as a movie prop. It will be used in an upcoming film for a scene in which a man has his hand chopped off in one continuous motion. Animatronics makes it possible to film the scene with full realism and no need to cut away (no pun intended, ha!).
The world of animatronics has completely revolutionized the film industry. But it has also done wonders for other industries as well. Not just industrial robots, but service robotics (including a sub-field of animatronics) are becoming a huge part of world-wide living.
Technology Increases Realism
In 1961 when Uncle Walt’s coined the term Audio-Animatronics (AA), there was no mistaking his imagineered devices for real humanoid and animals. That was exactly the pure charm of that new technology. The audience of that time was easy to “fool”, much more accepting of the entertainment and not so focused on the details of the technology. But that’s all changed. Technology has advanced to the point where it is possible to replicate even faint muscle movements in the face. Smiles are becoming more realistic, eyebrow twitches are nearly indiscernible, and blinking eyes look just like the real thing. If you don’t believe me just look at any of the major film critic’s review of this year’s “Hansel and Gretel Witch Hunters”. Almost all of them mention “Edward” the troll as being amazing BECAUSE none of them could believe he was actually REAL, not CG. Huge cheers to Mike Elizalde and Mark Setrakian to making such an amazingly real / stylized animatronic that you foold the most savvy.
Animatronic masters have not yet made a foolproof un-stylized (i.e. completely real, such as a lifecast) human face but they are getting closer. So much so that we are now able to build a life-like animatronic figure that looks and acts just as you do. All we need are some specs and some photographs and we can create your animatronic alternative. How’s that for realism?
Who Uses Animatronics
While all of this is well and good, you might be wondering who uses animatronics. After all, they are not a commodity you can buy off-the-shelf, but an investment. If the truth be known, there are lots of individuals and businesses embracing custom robots.
For example, corporations sometimes purchase animatronic robots to replicate important company leaders like Hiroshi Ishiguro. Some even use them at tradeshows as promotional tools like the “Actroid” co-developed by Japan’s Kokoro Corp.
At the municipal level, custom robotics are often used for public memorials, in museums and historical societies, and even as props for city celebrations, festivals, and parades. And while it’s true they can be expensive initially, a well-built robot from an animatronic company like ours will pay for itself over even only months of use.
Animatronics have changed the way we look at lots of different industries. What we’ve been seeing in films over the last few years is now a reality for your company, nonprofit organization, municipality, or even your own home. We invite you to contact us today so we can show you how animatronics can work for you.
Your own Top Agent to break the ice with gorgeous Bond-girls! He also can stand guard at your party, club, office, he will work anywhere there may be a chance for adventure!
This Top Agent randomly raises his drinking arm (or whatever you want that hand to hold, both hands are pose-able) and randomly looks left and right to check for danger.
Power? No problem! 110 VAC US / Japan household power or EU standard 220 VAC is fine as well.
Hang on…what about your Bugatti? Is it protected while you fill it up at the petrol station? At night? You can actually take Top Agent’s torso off his legs and put him in your car. He plugs into your lighter-socket.
At home, in your car, your Top Agent is always on guard and ready to entertain, protect, and seduce women! Just plug him in.
We are finding that more and more students, kids, parents, people from nearly all age groups want to be involved in some kind of animatronic. Some want to play with animatronic robotic eyes, some want an arm, some a hand, and some want a whole robot.
But there is one barrier common to all:
Not many can afford animatronics.
The transition from a “toy” like the cool animatronic monkey head from years back to a full-on advanced PIDD controlled electric, hydraulic, or pneumatic animatronic robot is a HUGE leap. But some have such a passion for having an animatronic that they have bought that monkey, for example, hacked into it, and started re-wiring, re-programming, re-building the whole thing! That is a LOT of work!
We recognize the need, and know that right now EVERYBODY is on a budget. So why not make an in-between? An animatronic platform that you can immediately play with out of the box BUT also encourages you to get in the guts of it, make new facial motions with more servos, plug in ANY controller you want and program it with simple codes or even stretch it to use complex computer vision algorithms.
Many skins are available for one animatronic skull
5 years in development and leveraging technologies and manufacturing processes we have recently discovered we have a way of giving you what you want at a decent price.
PLUS you can change the skins! No kidding. One skull, many faces.
Those of you out there making animatronics at a professional level know that we typically go the other way: start with the sculpt, then to the underskull, then mechanize. This is different, but the Mecha Hitsu Gen2 can be put to work immediately in your theme park, Halloween display, research labs, etc. No huge overhead costs, no long lead-time waiting for the custom sculpt, molding, scanning, modeling, cnc’ing, assembly and programming of a Custom Android.
We will be posting videos of the Mecha Hitsu Gen2 from clients that have made exceptional animatronic displays, research, demonstrations and more using their Mecha Hitsu Gen2 platform.
The human hand is one of the most complex appendages in the world. At least 29 small bones, 34 muscles, and about 123 ligaments.
Now, make me a robot hand.
There have been thousands of designs of “robot” hands spanning centuries. Humans trying to replicate their own functionality with mechanical devices, biomimicry. Some designs boil all the functionality and complexity of a hand into only a few actuators (or motor, servo, one device that acts as a muscle would). A simple example would be a homemade cable hand. Some designers have taken an extreme route using the hand as a gigantic car crushing form of entertainment as “The Hand of Man” does. Some have pushed the extreme limits of today’s technology to make, as much as possible, a robotic hand that has all the degrees of freedom that a real human hand does, like the ongoing DEXMART project or even Shadow Robotic’s Hand .
What we take for granted in our own human hands becomes painfully apparent as soon as you start to design one.
How many degrees of freedom do I need? What exact positions should it be able to achieve? How much force do I need at each joint? How am I going to transmit the actuators motion all the way down to a small fingertip?
Most importantly: how much is this going to cost???
Because there are those of us out there that do not have $100,000 sitting in our bank accounts just taking up space, and we at the same time do not want a $50 piece of copper tubes and wire from a hardware store fashioned into a “hand”. There needs to be an in-between.
The Custom Entertainment Solutions’ “DYN Hand Gen1” has fit this bill.
DYN Hand Gen1
It does capture 11 degrees of freedom most important to research teams.
It does have a skin.
And most importantly it is affordable.
Controlled by simple PWM inputs and powered by a single 6 VDC supply this hand can be immediately put to use by even novice roboticists. If you have programmed motion for a hobby servo you can program for the industrial strength servos inside the DYN Hand Gen1.
I personally look forward to what research this hand will be part of…
What seems like a complex, impossible wish is something we make for people everyday worldwide.
This could be anything from a small project involving an android with only a few motions to a large android having many motions and autonomy.
A perfect example is a small museum with big wishes for an android copy of Abraham Lincoln.
This is the result is a Custom Mr.Lincoln Android:
Custom Androids can look like anybody or anything our client’s want.
Custom Androids can perform and have as much mobility as our client’s desire.
Custom Entertainment Solutions can deliver exactly what you want down to your last specification.
Our clients are individuals, small companies, and large research institutions.
They all have one thing in common: People are competitive.
Most important to individuals and teams right now is having their own tailored solution. In research institutes worldwide even though they are all pushing towards similar goals of human / robotic interaction, it is VERY
competitive. They all want a unique, better custom android than anybody else.
One person may want a female face with 10 different motions.
Another may want a large tank-treaded human looking torso and head that is mobile and can perform.
Ever since Douglas Englebart developed the fist mouse prototype in 1963, people have tried to find better ways to interact with computers. Nearly 50 years later, almost all work done on a computer is still done with a mouse.
Of course, it would be nice to simply talk to a computer screen and have it not only type for us but recognize commands. This is already happening (and has been for many years now with companies like Nuance, even in robotic toys like Pleo who can recognize voice commands and react according to internal software).
Talking AT a robot is one way, as mentioned above, to control it. But what about talking WITH a robot? What would be necessary for you, as a human, to understand what the robot is trying to tell you?
A lot of work has been done in this area of human-machine interface. Now that we have the processing power, computer vision systems, and extremely talented research teams the direction is logical: Emotions. Expressions. A Face, not just a screen.
Mecha ToMoMi Head
Therein lies the challenge. Animatronic faces have been around since Walt Disney and his Imagineering team created the first audio-animatronic figure, Abraham Lincoln, for the 1694 New York World’s Fair. While it was an amazing leap in entertainment and education, the face was very simplistic. Mouth open / close, eyes left/right, and so on.
To actually create emotions is not simple. There are roughly 52 muscles in a human face that create subtle motions that, as it turns out, are very critical to re-create in a robot face. There are many attempts at doing this. The issue lies in the fact that if you are trying to create absolute realism and miss even a small, subtle part of that motion it becomes terrifying, not entertaining. And certainly NOT something you would want to be next to.
The solution is the Mecha ToMoMi head from Custom Entertainment Solutions. Right now Technion Institute (having the talent and standards exceeding even M.I.T.) is using the ToMoMi head to study human interactions to a robot face. The head is sculpted intentionally “fake”, as opposed to trying to be absolutely realistic. The face is perfectly white, also intentional to move farther away from a “real” human face. The back of the head is open, not covered in hair or some other attempt at realism. Using this approach, scientists can program in emotions easily and avoid the “uncanny valley”. The ultimate result is a very emotive head, with CMOS supermicro color video cameras in each eye, that is fit for a bipedal robot.
No more mouse.
No more talking AT the robot.
The future is talking WITH a robot that is pleasant to look at and interact with.