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Disney Research Gives Animated Characters Physical Form

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Disney Research has developed a method for designing cable-driven mechanisms that help artists and hobbyists give physical form and motion to animated characters.

The method, based on cable-driven mechanisms, uses assemblies of cables and joints to make desired motions and poses in a character.

The Disney Research team, supported by researchers from ETH Zurich, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and the University of Toronto, developed the method which was presented at Symposium on Computer Animation (SCA) 2017 here this week.

“A number of design tools developed over the past 30 years have enabled artists to breathe life into animated characters, creating expressions by posing a hierarchical set of rigid links,” said Vice President of Disney Research Markus Gross in a statement.

“In today’s age of robotics and animatronics, we need to give artists and hobbyists similar tools to make animated physical characters just as expressive,” he added.

The researchers demonstrated the method by designing a 2D puppet-like version of an animated character that is able to assume several desired fighting stances with accuracy.

“The advent of consumer-level 3D printing and affordable, off-the-shelf electronic components has given artists the machinery to make articulated, physical versions of animated characters,” said Moritz Bacher, Research Scientist at Disney Research.

The team also designed a robotic hand, with three fingers and a thumb, which was able to pick up light objects.

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