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.
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.
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!
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.