Disney’s Beachbot Robot Turns Sand into Art Canvas
Beachbot uses WiFi and a laser scanner to track its position and a retractable rake and sensors to draw lines.
Just what I need, another reminder of how cold it’s been lately here in Massachusetts. It’s a chilly 9 degrees as I’m writing this, and this turtle-shaped Beachbot is teasing me with it’s beach-going ways.
Beachbot, created by a team from Disney Research Zurich and ETH Zurich, autonomously creates sand drawings on a beach by using a retractable rake and a host of sensors.
Beachbot is only a prototype at this point, so it still needs a little assistance. You need to set boundaries for Beachbot using four provided poles, then its built-in WiFi and laser scanner track its position and keep it within the lines. There are two rear wheels to get Beachbot going, while one front wheel is in charge of steering.
Beachbot, which is 60 cm in length and 40 cm in both width and height, can create designs within a 10 x 10-meter square area. However, since its rake is retractable, Beachbot can create multiple lines, not just one continuous line. It can also create lines of varying thickness, from five centimeters to 40 centimeters in width.
Photos: 5 Beachbot Sand Drawings
If you look at the video and pictures, you’ll notice Beachbot doesn’t leave any tracks behind it. It was one of the main challenges for researchers at Disney Research Zurich.
“Robot sand art is basically a path planning problem in robotics,” explains Paul Beardsley, a principal research scientist at Disney Research Zurich. “Based on the lines of a drawing, the robot computes a trajectory that most closely approximates them. For big art pieces, the trajectory still has to be adjusted manually. But the group hopes to completely automate the process, so that you can give any picture to the robot and it will generate a line drawing and compute the corresponding path.
The team says Beachbot can “in principle” scale up to kilometer-long drawings, adding that the ultimate dream is to create “huge amazing drawings like the Nazca lines.” Future models might include patterned imprinters and an eraser to clear away previous drawings.
And you won’t have to worry about getting sand in all those unwanted places. Beachbot is completely sealed with an aluminum shell and sealing lips.