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    Give Us Your Ideas for Projects around Animatronics in the Comments Below! 


    It Can Come from Fantasy or Reality!  Unsettling or Delightful....



    Check out Episode 418: Animatronic Terminator Skull with BeagleBone® AI and Giveaway!  by mayermakes on element14 presents :



    The theme this month is Animatronics and it comes from a suggestion from dougw. The Latin word "anima" means life and the goal of animatronics is to give the illusion of life to electronic creations. This theme launches right around the same time as we are hosting the Halloween.    You are free to post your project in both spaces by tagging your blog with "AnimatronicsCH" and "sharethescare."  Doing so will give you the chance to win a 3D Printer as detailed in ShareTheScare 2019 - Halloween Project Competition.  There's also a lot of animatronics projects from element14 presents which you can use as inspiration for your project such as Episode 394: Animatronic GLaDOS Head with Raspberry Pi , Episode 378: Invader ZIM Animatronic GIR , and Episode 413:  Animatronic Claptrap Case Mod Part 2 by mrvolt .


    Before the concept of robots there were automatons, which could be any machine that is self-operating usually through mechanical means. They are designed to automatically follow a pre-determined sequence of operations or respond to encoded instruction. Animatronics is a specialized type of automaton. They use robotic technology to create a lifelike character with motion, expression, and audio. Unlike a robot it does not sense and/or react to their environment. The word itself is a combination of the word animation and electronics.


    The idea of lifelike machines that mimic biological organisms, whether human or animal (or fantasy), has bemused and fascinated people for thousands of years.  It shows up in myth such as Homer's Iliad, when Hephaistos, God of metalsmith, fashions mechanical helpers who are strong, intelligent, and vocal maidens of gold.  It shows up in legend such as the Jewish legend of Golem, a robot-like servant made of clay and brought to life by a rabbi. The progress of technology is a realization of getting closer to this reality.


    Animatronics is a late 20th century phenomena, but its a concept that has been around since the mechanical clock of the 15th century.  It was then that some of the most advanced mechanical clocks featured characters that could move to be displayed or hidden with the time on the clock or the sound of the clock.  Many of these clocks were very large and were built in town centers. The Prague astronomical clock for example.  The oldest part of the clock, the mechanical and astronomical dial date back to 1410.  The clock stopped working many times in the centuries after 1552, and went through frequent repairs.  In either 1629 or 1659 wooden statues were added, and figures of the Apostles were added in a major repair between 1787-1791. The golden figure of a crowing rooster was added during another major repair between 1865-1866.


    From there, animatronics became available in much smaller packages that could be purchased for the home with the cuckoo clock.  It is unknown who invented the cuckoo clock or where it was invented.  A cuckoo clock is typically a pendulum-regulated clock that strikes the hours with a sound like a cuckoo's call and has an automated cuckoo bird that moves with each note. Some cuckoos move their wings and open/close their beaks while leaning forward, whereas in others, only the bird's body leans forward.  The mechanism for making cuckoo calls has been in use since the mid 18th century up until the present. Its remained relatively unchanged.  Much of the development and evolution of the clock is thought to have originated in the Black Forest area of Southern Germany, where it was popularized. The adoption of the pendulum-clock, which is what allows a cuckoo clock to operate, was made possible because the pendulum had already drastically altered European clockmaking in the seventeenth century. Unlike earlier controlling devices, the freely swinging pendulum has a definite period of of its own.  Galileo Galilei (1564-1642) discovered the principle of the pendulum in Italy but development of the pendulum began with Dutch mathematician Christiaan Huygens (1629-1695).


    Leonardo Di Vinci, who was an artist and an engineer, appears to have created three different animatronic lions in his lifetime. His first was in 1509, and designed for the grand entry of Louis XII into Milan.  It could not walk but it could rear its hind legs to present a lily, a symbol of France.  His second animatronic lion, created in 1515, could walk and move its head.  Leonardo presented it to François I upon his visit to Lyon. A compartment with a lily in it was revealed when the king tapped the lion with his sword.  The third animatronic lion may has been lost in time. No drawing or plans exist,  only detailed notes in his manuscripts.  In 2009,  the description Leonardo left behind was used as inspiration for Renato Boaretto to create his own version of the third animatronic lion:



    The modern era of animatronics begins with Disney, who trademarked the term Audio-Animatronics.  In 1964,  the first animatronic to appear in a feature film was in Mary Poppins.  Walt Disney and his team created the animatronic robin that sings along with Julie Andrews in the song "A spoonful of sugar".  Animatronics that have appeared in the movies since then include Jaws, E.T., the Alien in Aliens, Jabba the Hut from Return of the Jedi, Free Willy, Every Dinosaur from Jurassic Park, Sonny from I Robot, Gizmo from Gremlins, The Terminator, and King Kong.


    The basic mechanism for animatronics is a combination of different mechanical and electrical components.  They can be powered using electrical motors, pneumatics or hydraulics, and their controlling mechanism can be either manual controlled or computer controlled. The mechanical components provide motion and give life to the animatronic object. The different components that are used to create motion for animatronics include analog or digital pneumatic systems, servo motors, linear actuators, DC motors, air bladders, cables, gears or cams, and stepper motors. A pneumatic system uses an air compressor, an air filter, air supply lines, T-connectors, poppet values, needle valves, and adjustable pressure valves are used to control a cylinder and mechanical parts must be designed reliably. Its also necessary to make all moving parts and connections accessible for future replacement as these can wear out. Animatronics are typically controlled using electronics with embedded microcontrollers.  Typically, an electronic control board is used to control timing of the figure and to send out data for movement and sound.  Additional boards are used to translate movement data to electrical voltage or signals to actuate a valve, motor, or servo.


    Key DatesDate
    Animatronics  Contest Begins:15th in October 2019
    Halloween  Closes5th in November 2019
    Animatronics  Qualifier Doc:9th in December 2019
    Animatronics  Contest Closes / Volunteer Judging:16th in December 2019
    Animatronics Winners Announcement (ETA):23rd in December 2019



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    The Modern Era of Animatronics

    Walt Disney and Audio Animatronics


    Animating figures using cables and cams had long been a dream of Walt Disney, having gone so far as to contact a patent lawyer to propose dimensional animation in 1949. It was during the summer of that year that Walt took his wife Lillian and two daughters on a holiday trip to Europe.  While in Paris, Walt ventured out into the streets to do some shopping and came back to the hotel room with a couple of large bags of wind-up toys. He unpackaged every one of those toys, wound them up and studied them.  He mused, "It's amazing that you can get such interesting movement from a very simple mechanism.  A few of those toys can be seen today in the family museum accompanied by a description from his daughter Diane, "Not terribly unique, but possibly the forerunners of Audio-Animatronics."


    Walt is said to have drew inspiration for Audio-Animatronics, the technology Disney invented and would later trademark, from an antique mechanical singing bird he found in a shop while vacationing in New Orleans sometime in the early 1950s. He brought it home to his wife Lillian but not before showing it to his engineering team first.  He tasked them with figuring out how the bird worked and to build a better version of it.  The technology behind Audio-Animatronics wasn't invented by Disney and his engineers, it was found in a store. But what he and his team were able to do was to expand upon an existing technology and make it more entertaining and elaborate than ever before.


    In 1963, the enchanted tiki birds, the world's first ever animatronic robots, were unveiled at Disneyland.  The Audio-Animatronics technology that powers the display allowed animators to synchronize movement, audio, and visual effects.  They were able to do all this at a time before computer programming, engineering, and sound came together in a useful way. This new system used a solenoid coil, basically a wire wrapped tightly around a cylinder. When audio recorded on magnetic tapes passes through the coil, it produces a reaction that creates motion. Disney was motivated to take animation off of the screen and into a three dimensional space as a sort of real life animation.  Their ambitious goal was quietly put on hold as they were quietly pursuing an even loftier goal... Throughout the 1950s, when the tiki room was being developed, they were experimenting with doing a more complex system that could mimic human beings and they were getting close.


    "Project Little Man"was an animatronic figure that was an early attempt at realizing those lofty ambitions. It was a miniature animatronic figure that was designed to mimic a Bobby Epsen dance routine.  Some progress was made but the results were crude. Roger Brogie who was working on the project apprised Walt of the limitations they faced working on miniatures by telling him that if they "were allowed to build full size figures (they) could put the equipment inside the figure... (they) wouldn't have to go through cables and cams, (they) could build integrated figures."  Walt thought up an idea for the first human sized application of animatronics, "I want to have a Chinese restaurant at the Park,” Walt told his Imagineers. “Out in the lobby will be an old Chinese fellow like Confucius—not an actor, but a figure made out of plastic. Now the customers will ask him questions, and he'll reply with words of wisdom.” They got as far as a Chinese head but the project would never be finished. It could blink its eyes and open close its mouth to which Walt said, "Now let's make him talk."  He instructed his team to watch tv with the sound off in order to study the way that people talk.  The project was dropped in favor of a life sized version of Abe Lincoln who would move, talk, and look like like him. Animatronic Abe debuted at the World's Fair in New York in 1964:



    Recently, the company responsible for Disney’s humanoid robots showed off a new fake Abraham Lincoln:


    Animatronics in the Movies

    Animatronics from the Movies




    The E.T. figure, designed by Carlo Rambaldi, is notable for pushing animatronics in filmmaking. It required a high level of detail in order to develop the personality of the character in film.  E.T. was capable of 150 different movements, which included many different facial expressions, neck, hand, and of course, finger movements.



    Jabba the Hutt


    When a CGI version of Jabba the Hutt was added to a New Hope many fans thought it was a poor move.  In the 1983 release of Star Wars: Return of the Jedi, the character of Jabba the Hutt was one giant puppet, one of the largest and most expensive ever made.  It incorporated animatronics and was operated by three puppeteers from the inside.





    The alien queen in the movie Aliens was a giant animatronic robot that stood 14-feet tall. The mechanical monster was animated using cables and hydraulics, and required a crane for support. Two puppeteers inside the device operated its arms while 16 were need to move the rest of it.





    The skeletal chrome machine shown in the film was originally supposed to be depicted through stop motion animation. Instead, a then-state-of-the-art full-sized animatronic puppet based on Jim Henson's technology was used.



    Jurassic Park


    Every dinosaur in Jurassic Park was animatronic.  To get a right the designs were supervised by real-life paleontologist Jack Horner.  Stan Studios created the dinosaurs to appear as lifelike as possible.  Highly detailed full-scale sculptures of the dinosaurs were created before molding foam rubber skins went over complex robotics. Puppeteers then remotely control motion with "Waldos" that captured their performances for the machines to mimic.




    element14 presents: Animatronics

    Here are some projects to inspire you:


    Episode 178: Ben Heck’s Animatronic Puppet Head Part 1 Episode Episode 180: Ben Heck's Animatronic Puppet Head Part 2 Episode



    A DJ Harrigan Video: Animatronic Roberto Lamp



    Episode 394: Animatronic GLaDOS Head with Raspberry Pi


    Episode 378: Invader ZIM Animatronic GIR



    Episode 411: Animatronic Claptrap Computer Case - Part 1 Episode 413: Animatronic Claptrap Case Mod Part 2



    Your Chance to Win


    Be Original
    Stick to the Theme
    • You could come up with a clever name that make's your project memorable!
      • This project is your baby! Part of the fun of bringing something new into the world is coming up with a name.
    • Your project could introduce something new or that is not commercially available or affordable!
    • If you have an idea for a project that doesn't fit the current theme then submit your idea in the comments section of the monthly poll.
    List the Steps
    Submit Video Proof
    • Provide the steps you took to complete your project (text, video, or images).
      • This could be a step by step how-to-guide, vlog, schematics, coding, napkin drawings, voice narration, or whatever you think will be useful!
    • If it doesn't work that's fine, this is more about the journey than the end product.
    • A short video is all that is required but you can shoot as much video as you like.
    • You are encouraged to be creative and have as much fun as possible!


    Your Project Examples


    A Flying Purple People Eater The Creature from the Crab Nebula




    Your Prizes


    One Grand Prize Winner Wins a $200 Shopping Cart!Three First Place Winners Win a $100 Shopping Cart
    • One Grand Prize Winner Wins a $200 Shopping Cart!
    • 3 First Place Winners a $100 Shopping Cart!




    Your Project, Your Ideas!


    About Project14

    Every month you'll have a new poll where you'll get to decide an upcoming project competition, based on your interests, that will take place a couple of months in advance. Themes are broad in scope so that everyone can participate regardless of skill set.


    What are Monthly Themes?

    • Every month (around the 14th of each month) a new theme will be posted on Project14.
    • Submit your ideas (proposals) for your projects to get feedback from the rest of the community.
    • Submit a project entry in the Theme space once you start working on it.


    What are Monthly Theme Polls?

    • Every month (around the 14th of each month) there is a project theme poll.
    • Vote on which project competition you want to see for the following upcoming theme.
      • The themes voted on during the previous poll decided the upcoming theme.
      • If you submit an idea for a theme that is not used then it can still be used in a future poll.
    • Themes comments and ideas from the comments section of the project theme poll.

    Step 1: Log in or register on element14, it's easy and free.

    Step 2: Post in the comments section below to begin a discussion on your idea. Videos, pictures and text are all welcomed forms of submission.

    Step 3: Submit a blog post of your progress on your project by the end of the month.  You are free to submit as many blog entries as you like until the beginning of the next theme.


    Be sure to include video proof of your project!


    Visit: Animatronics  or tag your project blog AnimatronicsCH


    You have until December 16th End of Day to submit your completed project!


    A jury consisting of your peers will judge project submissions!


    Give Us Your Ideas for Projects around Animatronics in the Comments Below! 


    It Can Come from Fantasy or Reality!  Unsettling or Delightful....