Thursday, May 12, 2005

Lucky the Dinosaur, Animal Kingdom

Tom Keating - VoIP Blog

Lucky the Dinosaur is one of the latest attractions at Disney's Animal Kingdom. The video of Lucky below doesn't do Lucky justice. It is an engineering marvel to see him (I mean "it") in person. On this video you will hear "bass" sounds that are in sync with his feet as they touch the ground. The bass was pretty powerful actually, simulating what a "heavy" dinosaur may have sounded like when stomping around in the Jurassic period. Of course, Lucky the Dinosaur isn't a very big dinosaur, so technically it shouldn't make this sound. But the bass effect is cool. Besides it's for kids, so what do little kids know about mass and velocity and how laws of physics determine how loud something is on impact? Anyway, it was hard to detect from my vantage point precisely where on Lucky the bass was coming from, but obviously there must be huge bass speakers in the cart Lucky is pulling.

As seen in the Lucky video above (Should autoplay in Media Player .wmv format), this is the very first animatronic robot that I am aware of that has virtual "free reign" in an amusement park. Most other animatronics are part of shows on some sort of stage. In fact, according to Disney's own PR, "Lucky the Dinosaur is the first free-roaming, self-contained Audio-Animatronic. As a part of the 50th Anniversary Happiest Celebration on Earth he'll spending some time at Dinoland in Animal Kingdom." At scheduled times throughout the day Lucky will appear with Chester and Hester and do an interactive show.
I just happened to be lucky enough (bad pun) to catch him while my wife and I were about to leave Animal Kingdom.
Pretty cool technology. Sony Aibo - eat your heart out! Lucky is the king robot!

I should add that what is really impressive about Lucky is the degree of movement in the head and neck, and the wide range of facial features. It's easy to believe that he is real as he “talks” with his dinosaur handler, or whimpers when his balloon floats away or is scolded for taking the handler's hat, or when Lucky smiles or winks at someone. Lucky's motions are incredibly smooth. He doesn't appear robotic in his steps, or the way he moves his head to observe all the people gathering around him. Of course several Disney employees keep you quite a distance from Lucky. My guess is so a small child doesn't get hit foot run over by the cart, which no doubt is filled with tons of equipment covered by silk flowers.

Here are some still photo thumbnails of Lucky the Dinosaur I took (click for larger image):


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