Sometimes Disney really is all about fun: The new project from Disney Research is nearly a cartoon in real life, a giant baby turtle “Beachbot” that has the power to sketch massive designs on a smooth beach.
Beachbot uses its own little rake and chugs gently along with its three wheels in a predetermined pattern, much more complicated than sketching out simple hearts with a stick. The rake itself is an impressive piece of design, featuring seven different modules that can be independently moved via individual motors to create a variety of different effects.
The design itself is based on original smart software designed by Disney’s Zurich team, which can take created pictures and turn them into a complex set of instructions for Beachbot, based on a set of algorithms that the team is working on.
Thus far Beachbot can have fun scrawling a number of different patterns, but comes with some limitations: it requires careful localization via a laser scanner mounted on its shell, which reads reflective poles that have to be set up in careful border around the project. In the future, the team wants to improve the process so that they can tackle far larger projects and showcase their Beachbot on real beaches as a form of entertainment for onlookers.
The commercial value of the turtle, however, is more dubious. A quick glance at any particular beach would show a dozen reasons why the turtle wouldn’t work, from driftwood and wet patches to well, all the other people. But while consumer sales are unlikely, that doesn’t mean you can’t sit back and enjoy the fun this amiable project can create.
And, on the plus side, a modified version sounds like a great kit for a high school engineering class, if Disney wants to go the education route.
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