The House of Mouse has been at the forefront of entertainment technology from its very beginnings in an old orange grove in Anaheim. Disney Imagineers invented the first modern animatronics in the 1960s and they’ve been improving the technology ever since, often to the point of being creepy.
But the complicated guts of an animatronic are sometimes too much for smaller characters, so in the spirit of “cheaper, faster, better”, Disney has developed some interesting techniques for animated characters made from wire. Anyone who has ever played with a [Gumby] or other posable wireframe toys knows that eventually, the wire will break, and even before then will plastically deform so it can’t return to its native state.
Wires used as the skeletons of animated figures can avoid that fate if they are preloaded with special shapes, or “templates,” that redirect the forces of bending. The Disney team came up with a computational model to predict which template shapes could be added to each wire to make it bend to fit the animation needs without deforming. A commercially available CNC wire bender installs the templates that lie in the plane of the wire, while coiled templates are added later with a spring-bending jig.
The results are impressive — the wire skeleton of an animated finger can bend completely back on itself with no deformation, and the legs of an animated ladybug can trace complicated paths and propel the beast with only servos pulling cables on the jointless legs. The video below shows the method and the animated figures; we can imagine that figures animated using this technique will start popping up at Disney properties eventually.
From keeping guests safe from robotic harm to free-flying robotic aerialists, it seems like the Disney Imagineers have a hardware hacker’s paradise at the Happiest Place on Earth.
Continue reading “Kinetic Wire Animatronics Bend It Like Disney”
There are a lot of things to like about [BoneConstructor]’s Skelly the skeleton robot project. Note that we said, “project”. That’s because not only does the robot work well and is built well, but the journey he took to make it contains steps we’ve all taken ourselves. We can say that with confidence since it’s his first, and we’ve all had those.
Skelly started life as a skeleton sitting in [BoneConstructor]’s antique race car at local car shows. Its eyes lit up and it made a moaning sound, which didn’t always work right. From there came lessons learned with head and arm servos, followed by problems with a PS2 remote and a control board. When he realized he’d have to write his own code, he was stymied by his lack of programming skills. But then he found Visuino, which as you can guess from the name is a visual way to program Arduinos, mostly consisting of drag-and-drop. From there on, the path was smoother, if not completely linear.
Rather than rapidly burn through servos by mounting the bones directly to the servo arms, he fitted bearings into the bone sockets, put the limbs on shafts through those bearings, and used pusher rods connected to the servo arms to turn those shafts. It’s no wonder the arms work so well. He took that sturdy and resilient approach with the wrists and neck too. He even made its right foot able to tap in tune with the music.
And from there we begin to understand some of the method to his madness. Check out the videos below, and on his Hackaday.io page and you’ll see how wonderfully Skelly moves to the music. It even took a moment for us to realize he wasn’t actually playing the piano. But best of all, we like how he rocks out to AC/DC’s Shoot To Thrill (Iron Man 2 Version). We’re really impressed by how well those robot arms hold up given that this is a first robot.
Continue reading “Skelly The Skeleton Is A Scary Good Musician”
[Divconstructors] cashed in after Halloween and picked up a skeleton dog prop from the Home Depot, for the simple and logical purpose of turning it into a robot.
The first step was to cut apart the various body parts, followed by adding bearings to the joints and bolting in a metal chassis fabricated from 1/8″ aluminum stock. This is all pretty standard stuff in the Dr. Frankenstein biz. For electronics he uses a Mega with a bark-emitting MP3 shield on top of it. Separately, a servo control board manages the dozenish servos — not to mention the tail-wagging stepper.
[Divconstructors] actually bought two skeletons, one to be his protoype and the other to be the nice-looking build. However, we at Hackaday feel like he might have missed an opportunity: As any necromancer can tell you, a freakish combination of two skeletons beats out two normal skeletons any night of the week. Also, two words for you to consider: cyberdog ransomeware. We imagine you don’t really feel ransomware until there’s the family robodog ready to test out its high-torque jaw servos on your flesh. Of course if he were a real dog we could either remotely control him with a hot dog, or just give him a talking collar.
Here’s a quick question: are Geiger and Giger (as in H.R. Giger, designer of the Alien Xenomorph) pronounced the same? The answer is no. Nevertheless, the late artist has had his name mispronounced (for the record, it’s ghee-gur) by many over the years. [Steve DeGroof’s] friend posted a goofy tweet that gave him the inspiration to finally put a skeletal lid on the matter, the Giger Counter.
The innards are a Mightyohm Geiger Counter Kit. The external casing is where the true hack lies in this project, made from a 1:2 scale plastic skeleton model, flexible conduit, and dark metallic spray paint. Only the ribcage, some vertebrae, and part of the skull are used from the model. They are assembled in a delightfully inhuman fashion with some conduit wrapped around it and into the bottom of the ribcage for good measure. After some gluing and spray painting, the LED from the Geiger Counter kit is placed through a drilled hole in the skull while the board sits inside the ribcage. Getting the board in and out can be a little tricky, but it looks like the batteries can be changed without having to pull the whole board out.
Check out the video below to see the Giger Counter. If you want another hack inspired by H.R. Giger’s artistic vision, take a look at this Xenomorph suit we covered. Or, if you can’t get enough Geiger counters, we’ve featured plenty of cool ones on this site.
Continue reading ““Giger Counter” Makes Radiation Detection Surreal”
Happy Halloween from everyone at Hackaday! To help you enjoy the holiday here are a few festive links:
[Mike Kohn] whipped up a set of motion tracking eyeballs to make his decor extra creepy.
There’s not much to this jet-pack costume but the results are pretty amusing.
The eyes on [Tim Butler’s] skeleton prop don’t follow you around the room, but they do use a PIR sensor to light up the skull.
Speaking of skulls, [Tom] is using some real skulls as decorations. He also added lights where the eyeballs should be, but he is using a photoresistor and comparator to turn on some LEDs.
[Clark] built a Mecha Robot Warrior costume for his son. With all of those LED strips we think he’ll be pretty safe when crossing the street!
And finally, [Jesse] added a lot to his prop in order to produce a Sinister Joker. That’s Joker-as-in-cards and not as in Batman. It’s got an IR distance sensor as a trigger, with a motor to move the wrist, lights for the eyes, and a sound shield to give it a disturbing voice.
[Cjmekeel] spent weeks getting his Halloween display ready this year. The centerpiece of his offering is this full-sized motorized skeleton. But there’s a few other gems that he worked on to compliment it. There’s an old-fashioned radio whose dial moves mysteriously and plays a news flash warning of an escaped mental patient. He also spent a couple of dollars to outfit a crow with some glowing red eyes and a servo motor.
But the creepiness of the skeleton means you might not even notice those other props. He started with a rather boring looking plain plastic head and did some real magic to build up the rotting flesh and gaping wounds. Those penetrating eyes don’t hurt either. The head moves on a few servo motors which use random values and sleep periods for disturbingly jerky movements. Check out the video after the break to get a glimpse at what kept kids away from his house on Halloween.
This is just a build log and unfortunately there’s no post yet showing the finished product. If we can get enough information together we’ll try to run a follow-up.
Continue reading “Amazingly realistic skeleton prop”
[Kevin Harrington] throws a curve ball with this skeleton in a coffin. Instead of going for the cheap scare, he conjures memories of old cartoons when the bony figure puts on a song and dance. When activated it leans forward to hang out of the coffin donning a tattered tuxedo and top hat. You can hear the servos working as they give jerky yet realistic motion to the tune “Hello! Ma Baby” in the true Michigan J. Frog style. Classic!
He figures it took about $36 in parts to put the skeleton together plus the DyIO module to control it from a PC. Four servos are used in total, connected to the skeleton with some steel cable. Connecting it via a computer makes it a bit easier to synchronize music with motion than just using a microcontroller capable of playing back audio would have been. Code is available from the site linked at the top, and a demo video is embedded after the break.
This would also have been possible by using an Arduino as a DMX controller.
Continue reading “Skeleton does a Looney Tunes style song and dance”