Artist Alonso Martinez develops 3D printed life-like robots for a project which explores how simple designs can have a big personality.
Can you imagine anything cuter or more enjoyable than playing peek-a-boo with a tiny robot? Alonso Martinez has developed a tiny family of robots to explore how he can bring designs to life through movement.
Martinez works as virtual character designer for the animated film company Pixar. However, for a personal side project, he wanted to develop robots that are more personable than those he creates for the big screen. And so, he developed Mira and Gertie – two tiny robots that people can interact and play with.
For the YouTube channel Tested, Martinez brought the two life-like robots that can interact with users through simple games. He first created Gertie, which was inspired from his time at animation school. The robot incorporates a bouncing ball to help it move around.
The second robot, named Mira, can play peek-a-boo. To do this, she tracks the faces of the user. Although the blinking eyes make it appear as if the robot is watching, it is in fact a small black camera dot used to follow the user. Mira also responds to kisses and “gun shots.”
Creating Mira the Robot using 3D Printing
Martinez uses a simplistic design, building these characters through small design cues. He explains: “You want people to project themselves onto the character.”
Mira’s has a small and egg shaped design, giving the impression that it’s a baby robot. For the outside shell, Martinez used a desktop 3D printer and PLA material. The post-processing method consists of an orbital sander used to create a smooth finish.
The two parts of Mira, both made from PLA, initially caused a jittery motion, so Martinez used Teflon tape to create a smoother turn.
Martinez uses a mechanism that includes two tiny Power HD DSM-44 servos, allowing Mira’s head to rotate around. To control the movement, he uses a joystick called the Microsoft Sidewinder Pro. He took the joystick apart and improved on it, also 3D printing his final design.
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