Multi Robot System for Artistic Pattern Formation by Disney Research (2012)
While this project doesn’t feature a particularly artistic title, it does demonstrate a novel concept for multi-robot coordination. The basic idea is simple: show a picture and have a bunch of small mobile robots scuttle about to imitate the picture. The result can only be described as a swarm – a multitude of miniature 2-wheeled contraptions fuzz about until a formation resembling the picture emerges, It really reminds me of orientation day for freshmen at Carnegie Mellon University – a bunch of students stand in formation to show the letters C, M, and U. If you ask me, the biggest way to improve this project is quite obvious: add more robots. And when I say “more,” I mean a lot of robots, so they look a bit like Miles’s KeyFleas. And also, a more artistic title would add a nice touch.
Papillon: Expressive Eyes for interactive characters by Disney Research (2013)
Papillon, meaning butterfly in French, was of particular interest to me because one of the biggest things I am doing with my own robots is creating expressive faces. Using a light projector against a round surface is a novel idea of showing eye expressions on a toy. However, this method does have some limitations. While this does allow the shape of the face and the eyes to be more round and humanoid, it might look a little weird to have a really humanoid eye and see the pupil move without the sclera (background whites). Also, the individual “cells” on the eye are very easy to see. Not necessarily a bad thing, it does have the possibility of making the robot unbearably cute. As a comparison to my own robots, I’ve done two things to create expressive eyes: the first one being 3-color LEDs, and the second being an Android phone. Using the first method, emotions were emulated with different colors on the LED; for example, blue meant happy and red meant angry. Using the second method, I had a far greater range of expressions available, as using an Android phone gave me full control of several hundred thousand pixels; I could actually control the shapes of the eyes as well as the color. I think Papillon combines the best of both of my methods, making it possible to have expressive shapes while still retaining the same glowing aura of an LED.