By Allegra Staples on January 27, 2015
The world is filled with extremely talented sand artists – people that can masterfully carve up giant castles, sculptures and even paintings, using just sand and water. But very few are as adorable as Beachbot – a robot which will keep the audience entertained as it scurries around creating beautiful masterpieces.
Unveiled on January 9th, the turtle-shaped robot that measures about 2 feet long, and 15 inches in width and height, is the result of a collaboration between Disney’s Zurich Research Lab and a team of student engineers from the University in Zurich.
Like most sand artists, Beachbot creates the magnificent paintings using a rake that is attached to the underside of its body. Built with an automatic pressure control, it allows the robot to exert the right amount of force on the soft sand. Seven servo motors ensure that Beachbot can configure the rake prongs, allowing it to create “brush strokes” measuring anywhere from two to fifteen inches wide. The rake can also be retracted at any time, enabling the robot to create the outline with multiple lines instead of a continuous one. Its three cushioned balloon-like wheels not only help in painting smoother curves, but also allow the robot to drive over the artwork, without ruining it.
Of course all this skill and agility is only possible because of Beachbot’s incredible “brain”, which has been programmed with a series of algorithms that turn images into trajectories that the robot can easily follow. An inbuilt laser scanner allows the detection of the four reflective poles that act as parameters for its sandy canvas. In addition, the inertial measurement unit allows the artist to make precise movements that become lines, patterns, and eventually beautiful shapes and images, some as big as 30 feet by 30 feet. While Beachbot’s artwork, which it completes in a speedy quick ten minutes is certainly impressive, what is even more so is watching the robot create it – a sight its inventors aptly describe as “an exceptional, magical show.”
Though it may appear perfect to the onlooker, the Zurich team maintains that the Beachbot, which is still in the concept stage, is not quite ready for production. That’s because it is not completely autonomous and still requires manual tweaking, especially when creating larger sand paintings. In addition, they envision future Beachbots to be able to erase their own masterpieces, paint entire shorelines and even be proficient snow artists – a talent that will certainly be appreciated by all “Frozen” fans!
Resources: Discovery.com, wired.com,engadet.com