Elysium. Unfortunately, he is not free to share specific
details or any still photography at this time. Of course,
there is nothing to stop you from seeing the movies and
watching for the robots yourself.
Scherer created mechanical looking things that use
electronics to light up and/or move for Elysium and Man
of Steel. “Both of these mechanical props were
interesting as a change of pace from the organic
creatures of The Hobbit. It’s a great joy in engineering
that we can learn something in one domain and find that
it has natural applications in another,” Scherer observed.
“I worked on monsters in The Hobbit. Computer
Graphics (CG) replace most of these creatures, but there
are a few rare treats in the film where you get to see
some rubber skin — the practical animatronic effects that
I worked on,” Scherer noted.
According to Scherer, in the world of character
robots, the character comes first. Robotics is simply the
enabling technology. It is the same for effects where the
monster or prop has to sell on camera.
“For that reason, development begins in the art
departments. Those teams develop sizes, colors,
personalities, styles, and more. Molds are made of
sculptures and castings are handed off to animatronics
where we figure out how to bring the pieces to life with
electromechanical parts,” explained Scherer.
Scherer instilled the movie robot’s capabilities
through the mechanical core of the robots. “This is a
feature of animatronics that I think is ideal for
incorporating into designs for
working character robots.”
“A thin, rigid plastic membrane
keeps the skin in place and in the
correct shape. We use paddles to
push the skin around as it rests on
the mechanical core.
A paddle is any shape that is
the interface between the actuator
(e.g., servomotor) and the skin.
Consequently, the paddle often
nestles into the mechanical core and
moves in relation to that mechanical
core,” Scherer described.
Can You Make a
Robot Film Star?
If you have seen many of the
sci-fi, action, and graphic novel-based films of late, you know that
many popular films use robotics. Do
you have an interest in creating
robots for film? SV
12 SERVO 11.2013
Scherer and two of his colleagues at the Army Research Lab
examine the technology inside the little red robot. Technologies
internal to the robot include a Roboteq OTS motor controller
board, large AC motors with rotary encoders, Wi-Fi, and
programming using Python.