I need someone to explain this to me.

Basic Animatronics Tutorial: PIC Based Servo Eyebrows

[Chris] writes in to let us know about his latest animatronics tutorial, this time on robotic eyebrows! The tutorial takes us through the process of using a fairly simple PIC  circuit to display various facial expressions. Since a wide array of facial expressions have unique and well understood eyebrow positions this simple hack can make even the most bland looking mask come to life . Animatronics is a subject near and dear to our hearts, but the simple actuation of servos can go much further than cardboard faces. This easy to follow tutorial can help you on your way to controlling all sorts of servo stuff like vent flaps or um…  fish, if you’d like. The software is not very deeply explained but it is commented and available for download from [Chris]‘s site.

From here [Chris] plans to expand the project with more tutorials that can help further animate the face. We are particularly interested in the one and two eye systems he mentions, as well as more complicated eyebrow mechanics. Also check out [Chris]‘s other servo based robotics tutorials like the Sharpie Spotifier and the Wooden Menace.

There is also a video of the eyebrows in action after the break.

[Read more...]

DIY Animatronic penguin shakes and grooves

animatronic_penguin

Instructables user [djsfantasi] wanted to build an animated holiday display using puppets as a means of raising money for a local arts program. After doing a bit of reading and research however, he decided that building animatronic characters for the display was not that far fetched an idea.

His first inclination was to build a penguin, allowing him to focus mostly on torso motion rather than having to articulate arms and legs as well. His goal was to enable his penguin to “dance” by shimmying and shaking as well as flapping his wings. Using plywood, four servos, along with some miscellaneous connecting rods and cables, he went to work.

The penguin is operated using a SSC-32 servo controller that features an ATmega168 MCU at its core. This allows him to control all of the servos independently, and also in concert, allowing for combined movements. The penguin’s mouth also functions, using a circuit that synchronizes its movements to an audio file.

While the robot is currently tethered to his computer via a serial cable, [djsfantasi] mentions that he is currently working on an iPhone app that will be able to control the robot wirelessly. All he needs to do now is build an animatronic Tom Servo then toss a Crow skin over this one, and he’ll be all set!

Keep reading to get a look at the penguin moving and grooving in the video below.

[Read more...]

Puppet Circuits

This isn’t a specific project, so much as a pointer to a budding new site. Puppet Circuits is the project of [Raphael Abrams], one of the co founders of NYC Resistor. As you can probably guess, he has been posting about the circuits he uses in his animatronic puppets. I faces all kinds of problems since may of the systems are to be worn and have to endure some pretty rough treatment and still perform well. Very interesting stuff to read about.

RoboThespian: Chuck E. Cheese entertainment comes home

Remember your eighth birthday party when the animatronic band at Chuck E. Cheese sang happy birthday just for you? Now you can enjoy this any day of the year with RoboThespian. The complete animatronic platform has been modeled in Blender 3D. Animating the robot is as easy as producing an animation from its digital model. Lip syncing is generated automatically, with the handles to the right of the model’s head controlling facial expression.

Using Blender as a choreography tools is brilliant.  We’re hoping someone will incorporate this technique in their Halloween shows this year.

[Thanks Rob via BlenderNation]

Animatronics reference

Anyone who is familiar with animatronics or even most robotics knows that almost every build is a hack if you don’t plan on reproducing it.  This gallery is to show off the work of [John Nolan]. However, instead of just posting the final product, he has posted several galleries that show, in detail, the internal structures. Curious how to rig a jaw or an eyebrow?  Wanna see the internals of an animatronic baby? How about building giant monster hands that are rugged and have full digit control? It’s all in the gallery.

Quoth the Raven: hack some more

RavenSideCovered_IMG_0009

There are people who buy a cheap sack of candy and dutifully answer the door on Halloween. Then there are people like [Peter] who spend the whole year planning for the next year’s Hollywood-style front yard theatrics.

He added an animatronic raven to his show a few years back. It has been wildly popular and it’s not hard to see why. The bird is well engineered, well built, and the performance is very realistic. [Peter], who is an FX supervisor in the film industry, has posted a build log that takes us through step by step. This creepy performer can move its head up and down, side-to-side, and even rotate at the neck. This all happens while the beak synchronizes with talking. We marvel at the precision machining that was done to make the frame facilitate movement.

The body itself is made of fiberglass covered with feathers. [Peter] covered the completed mechanics with clay in order to sculpt the final body shape. This was used as the mold by covering it with fiberglass release and then fiberglass fabric. This process produced a very light weight and accurate shell with a minimum of effort; something we’ll keep in mind for future projects.

Take a look at a bit of video after the break. You can see the whole show from past years over at [Peter's] site. We’ll be doing a couple of follow-ups covering his animatronic skeleton (the raven’s partner in crime) as well as the interface he uses to control and sync the voices to stay tuned! [Read more...]

Propeller halloween contest winners

Meet Skelly, the propeller powered singing skeleton, winning entry to the Unofficial Propeller Halloween Contest. Sick of the massive amounts of Arduino projects floating around the web, [Oldbitcollector] offered a halloween challenge.  Make something spooky using a propeller and other parallax stuff, win a prize. Skelly, made by [Chuck Rice] was the star of the show, so [Chuck] will be getting some USB development boards in the mail.