Interbots Initiative (IBI)

Role: Artist
Date: Jan to May 2004
Faculty Advisor: Brenda Harger
Other Team Members:
  - Eugenia Leu (Producer, Programmer)
  - Jichen Zhu (Programmer)
  - Sabrina Haskell (Programmer)
  - Peter Stepniewicz (Technician)
  - Andrew Hosmer (Robot Machinist)
Project Website

This project had the aim of creating an interactive, servo-driven robot who would live at the ETC and dispense candy to students, visitors, anyone who stepped foot in our building. We had a semester to do this. The final product is our character, Quasi, and a whole host of tools to control him.

I had a few tasks in this project. The first and foremost was designing the robot. I worked closely with Andrew Hosmer (the machinist) to make sure what we designed would be possible to fabricate and to move about. We designed Quasi in Maya and exported all the parts of his shell to stereo lithography (.stl) files. These were then 3-D printed at the Art Institute of Pittsburgh. Andy used these prints to make a mold, from which all the pieces were cast. So now we had a robot which would be physically identical to the Maya model.

We decided to try to animate Quasi in Maya, seeing as we already had this 3-D version of him. To this end, we needed a pipeline to send animations from Maya to the physical robot. I wrote the MEL script which converted the animations in software to a specialized file format. Eugenia wrote the software which pipes data from that file to the correct servo channels. For those not comfortable animating in Maya, I also wrote an Animation Editor tool which gives the animator a series of sliders by which he/she could manipulate the robot.

Lastly, I had to make a few animations for Quasi. You can see a test one below. I Will work on getting videos of some more.

The team

Eugenia and Quasi

Jichen and Quasi

Quasi and Bing Gordon (early on)

Initial Animation Test (17 secs):
This video documents the first night we attempted to animate Quasi using the Maya pipeline. And, to defy any expectation, it worked the first time! We include a clip of what the playbasted animation looks like in Maya. There were a few tweaks we had to make, (the back servos were reversed) but on the whole, it was a great success.
QT6 (2.48 M)
To view these movies, you need to have installed DivX and QuickTime 6.