Disney Creates Adorable Robot That Carves Cartoons Into The Sand

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Justine Alford

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560 Disney Creates Adorable Robot That Carves Cartoons Into The Sand

Meet BeachBot: the absolutely adorable autonomous robot that carves elaborate sand sketches onto beaches. This bright orange, turtle-shaped robotic artist is the brainchild of scientists at Disney Research Zurich and ETH Zurich, an informal network of research labs responsible for a variety of awesome projects, such as an algorithm that can turn virtually anything into a spinning top.

Although its description as a “creature with a soul” may be a tad fanciful, it’s difficult not to fall in love with. The bot is 60 cm long and 40 cm in both width and height, and has a three-wheel arrangement so that it can smoothly wind around its sandy canvas. The images it produces are either pre-loaded or drawn by a programmer remotely, which can be sent to the bot’s onboard computer via Wi-Fi.


BeachBot, via Gizmodo. 

Rather than letting the robot run wild across the entire beach, poles are placed in the sand to create a boundary, which are then detected by a laser scanner positioned on its back. Using a combination of this data and an inbuilt inertial measurement unit (IMU), the robot is able to locate itself and navigate within the defined area.

BeachBot’s creators worked out that the best tool for etching sketches into the sand was a rake with a series of prongs that can be individually lowered or raised to create lines of varied thickness. They also equipped the robot with soft, balloon-like wheels so that it doesn’t leave an obvious trail as it glides across the beach. Now for the tricky part—how does the robot translate an image into data that it can understand?

“Robot sand art is basically a path planning problem in robotics,” explained Paul Beardsley, a principal research scientist at Disney Research Zurich. The scientists therefore developed an algorithm that converts the lines of the picture into a trajectory that can be followed by the bot. Although it works pretty well, it still needs some further tweaking as big artwork requires the trajectory to be adjusted manually. Eventually, the researchers hope that the entire process can be automated so that the robot can compute the trajectories for any drawing it is given.



At the moment, BeachBot is restricted to a 10-meter x 10-meter canvas, but the scientists hope that it can be scaled up to make use of entire stretches of beach. Furthermore, they are planning to equip the robot with a variety of different tools so that different textures can be carved into the sand. Ultimately, the dream is to be able to produce giant drawings like Peru’s Nazca Lines. “We would like to make huge sand art that amazes people,” said Beardsley.

Unfortunately, it’s unlikely that the robot will become commercially available. However, it has already showed off its skills to the public at both Miami beach and Techfest in Mumbai, India.



[Via BeachBot, PopSci, Gizmodo, Engadget, IEEE and New Scientist]


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  • algorithm,

  • sand,

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  • BeachBot,

  • robotic artist,

  • Disney,

  • beach art