There’s something about the open ocean and the beach that makes people feel creative. Apart from sand castles and elaborate water pranks, many beach goers enjoy drawing in the sand, be it simple doodles, love statements or football pitch size intricate works of arts (you have to check out Tony Plant’s work). To put human beach drawing to shame, Disney just unveiled a mechanical rake wielding robot, designed to look like a cute turtle, that can automatically draw any planar shapes with ease.
The rake’s on you
Called the Beach Bot, the robot was built by engineers at Disney Research and ETH Zurich. From the get go, it was designed to withstand the unfriendly beach environment with a closed aluminium chassis and sealing lip. These keep away any fine grains of sand that might make their way into the system and jam fine mechanical parts. To move about, the Beach Bot was cleverly fitted with three balloon-like wheels that leave minimal tracks behind, while the actual drawing is done by a mechanical rake consisting of several moving parts. This is to allow the servo controlled rake to make lines with varying depth and thickness.
Beachbot currently works on 10-meter-by-10-meter-canvases. “But in principle we can scale up to kilometer long drawings that extend all along a beach,” Beardsley says. “The dream is to create huge amazing drawings like the Nazca Lines.”
The actual drawings are uploaded in a custom made software or made on the spot by putting the bot into “free-hand draw mode”. An operator can then use a remote to turn the Beach Bot into an over-sized stick to poke the sand. Interestingly enough, the robot turtle isn’t guided by GPS as some would think. Instead, it uses a simple, yet effective reference plane by calibrating itself against four reflective poles that define its drawing perimeter or sand canvas. A laser mounted the robot’s back constantly sends pulses to the poles to keep itself on the right track.
“The robot will be deployed at a public beach to amaze beachgoers who pass by. Not only the final picture is important, the whole drawing process will provide an exceptional, magical show,” the team wrote. “The BeachBot is not just a lifeless, mechanical being; it is a friendly looking creature with a soul.”
So if you design a robot that looks like a cute animal it suddenly has a soul? What if you just draw a smiley face on it? Nevermind.
Enjoyed this article? Join 40,000+ subscribers to the ZME Science newsletter. Subscribe now!