Leave it to Disney to magically turn the beach into a giant Etch-a-Sketch.
Sure, robots that could paint, doodle and write are nothing new. However, a team from Disney Research Zurich and ETH Zurich has conceived a mobile bot capable of autonomously creating giant sand drawings by dragging a rake-like tool on the beach.
The aptly named BeachBot — which measures 60cm in length and 40cm in width and height — features “balloon” tires that traverse sandy beaches without leaving any noticeable tracks. To provide optimal mobility and robustness, a three-wheel arrangement with differential drive back wheels and a steered wheel in the front are used. Drawing is done through a controllable rake consisting of seven movable parts actuated by servo motors, attached at the rear of the robot.
Instead of GPS, the BeachBot is equipped with a system like that used by many of today’s robotic vacuum cleaners. The desired canvas is marked by four reflective vertical poles at each corner. In order to draw precisely, the BeachBot requires accurate localization, and must first determine its position on the drawing area using depth sensing and IMU technology.
Artwork can either be preprogrammed to draw lines or create block-filled areas via its accompanying app, or manually to transform the beach into a real-life sketchpad. At the moment, the Wi-Fi-enabled BeachBot only works on 10 x 10m canvases with each drawing taking just about 10 minutes. In addition, individually controllable pins can be raised and lowered to create thick or thin lines in the sand.
What will the Roomba-sized, turtle shell-like bot be used for? Potential applications may include drawing large advertisements, designating private beaches, or allowing resort guests to reserve an exclusive spot.
BeachBot is only one of many Disney Research projects in the area of mobile robotics, ranging from path-planning and robot choreography to localization and human-robot interaction. Intrigued? You can learn all about the creation here. In the meantime, you can watch it in action below!