Comparing the original human model, the digital mesh and the resulting animatronic head (Image: Disney)
Outline of the face cloning process (Image: Disney)
Steps in matching skin (blue) to model thickness (line) (Image: Disney)
Plan of robot head with skin attachment points (Image: Disney)
Face cloning: steps in modeling the digital face and the final result in silicone (Image: Disney)
The “uncanny valley” is one of the frustrating paradoxes of robotics. Every year, roboticists make humanoid robots that more accurately imitate human beings, but it turns out that the better the imitation, the creepier the end result. It’s that strange, hair-raising sensation one gets when visiting the Hall of Presidents at Disneyland. True, George Washington and Abraham Lincoln look very lifelike, but there’s always something wrong that you can’t quite describe. In the hope of bridging this valley, a Disney Research team in Zurich, Switzerland, has invented a new robot-making technique dubbed “face cloning.” This technique combines 3D digital scanning and advanced silicone skins to give animatronic robots more realistic facial expressions.
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