Applications of EAP to the Entertainment Industry
David Hanson
DOI: 10.1117/3.547465.ch18
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18.1 Introduction

Biologically inspired EAP actuation is facilitating myriad new mechanisms, as portrayed in Topic 7 of this book and Bar-Cohen and Breazeal (2003). While many applications are at this time visionary, the entertainment industry may reap short-term benefits from EAP. Portraying animals is essential to entertainment, and for some entertainment uses, long-term performance is not critical. Abundant movies use robotics and∕or digital rendering to simulate and emulate organisms [Schraft and Schrmierer, 2000]; examples include A Bug's Life, Deep Blue Sea, The Matrix, Mighty Joe Young, and many others. EAP could significantly enhance traditional character-simulation technologies, adding biological accuracy to animatronics' actuation.

In lab tests, EAP has already shown that it can match critical properties of biological muscle, as discussed in Chapter 3. EAP also promises to be effective in configurations homologous to animal musculature—a strong advantage over other forms of actuation. Although EAP has yet to demonstrate these capacities in character animation, recent materials breakthroughs bring the possibility tantalizingly close. To make it so, collaboration between academia and industry will be indispensable. If EAP proves itself in entertainment, it will find ample resources for further research and development. This chapter seeks to elucidate how EAP might infiltrate and ultimately revolutionize entertainment, with a suggested practical approach to doing so. As an example, an existing EAP-based character animation project is described. This humanoid robotic head combines artificial intelligence (AI), computer vision, and EAP actuation, in an attempt to emulate the gestalt of the human countenance.

18.1.1 EAP's Potential to Radically Improve Entertainment

EAP materials have characteristics attractive to the entertainment industry, offering the potential to more effectively model living creatures at significantly lower cost. Viscoelastic EAP materials could provide more lifelike aesthetics, vibration and shock dampening, and more flexible actuator configurations. Moreover, multiple studies have shown that the viscoelastic properties of animal tissue are key to locomotion and general stability [Chapter 3; Full, 2000; Full and Koditschek, 1999; Dickinson et al., 2000; Full et al., 1998; Bar-Cohen and Breazeal, 2003]. In these regards, EAP prominently earns the moniker “artificial muscle.”

EAP animatronics could be married with other exciting contemporary technologies.

© 2004 Society of Photo-Optical Instrumentation Engineers

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