About

ActuatedCharacter – Human motion imitation using closed-loop control techniques for use in video games and real walking humanoid robots.

ActuatedCharacter is R&D project #4378 sponsored by Eureka / Eurostars. Approved in Feb 2008 and funded in 2010, it spans approximately 18 months.  The project is a consortium cooperation between 4 entities:

  • Instituto Superiore Technico – Portugal’s leading Mechanical Engineering dept. Facilitates space in its lab and expertise in robot control
  • Move Interactive – Video Game company based in Portugal. Project leader.
  • RoboSavvy – UK company specializing in Humanoid Robotics. Technical leader and project manager.
  • NoDNA – German company specializing in Robotics. Technical expert.

Abstract

This project aims to develop and introduce the innovative concept of “bringing video games to life”. Using advanced motion control techniques, the project shall develop a 3D video game engine plugin and a prototype real humanoid robot, creating a parallel between real and virtual worlds.

Description

We aim to bring together the world of video games and robotics by creating a unified playing environment across real humanoid robots and simulated video game characters. To this end, we plan to develop a unified control methodology for enabling stable, life looking and aesthetic motion for real walking robots and for physically simulated video game human characters. This control mechanism will bring to several markets an unprecedented level of life-like realism in video games and in real humanoid robotics.

Video game human characters today are not subject to simulated gravity and physical forces except for achieving very basic effects such as collision and “ragdoll” effect when falling. To achieve human looking motion, game designers use keyframe or motion capture techniques to animate the characters. In this project, we aim to achieve real time body dynamics simulation and feedback control techniques in order to create human characters that rely on their instincts to move and react in realistic looking ways to the ever changing environment. Characters will know how to adjust to a slippery floor, how to grab a ledge, how to balance their body on a cracking and shacking terrain, among others.

Simulation and control techniques have been developed in universities and research centers around the world mainly for industrial robot research purposes. Today’s commercially available hobby humanoid robots are actuated by servo motor boxes containing DC motors with multiple gears to reduce the speed of the shaft. The servos are designed in a way that supports the paradigm of moving the shaft position in sequence from one position to another. However, this technique causes the robots to be very unstable because the central control is not “aware” of what the external world looks like. If the floor is slippery or tilted or the way is obstructed due to a pebble or a wall, the robot will fall and not know what had happened. Recurring to similar dynamics simulation and feedback control techniques as above, we aim to replace the blind open-loop-control approach with robust feedback controllers that endow the humanoid robot the capability to overcome unpredicted obstacles.

About the consortium

RoboSavvy is a UK based hobby and education robotics distribution and development company. It was the first company to sell humanoid robot kits outside of Japan since 2004 and runs the most popular online support forum for humanoid robot builders. Founder of RoboSavvy Limor Schweitzer came up with the idea of developing the ActuatedCharacter concept in 2003. It took several years to find the funding for the idea which finally manifested into this project. He is the technical leader of the project and has developed the EZPhysics robot simulator which is used in the project.

Move Interactive is a videogame developer working with the Xbox360 and PC platforms. The company has developed their own 3D graphics engine technology (FLOW) for the current generation of platforms (PC, XBOX 360). Move has developed Floribella with national TV Channel SIC for the casual/kids market and Ugo Volt, an action/adventure title for PC and 360.

IST – Instituto Superior Técnico, through the staff of the CSI – Center of Intelligent Systems has considerable knowledge in the area of robust control and in particular dynamic control of walking robots. They have hundreds of scientific publications in control theory and robot control as well as state-of-the-art laboratory prototypes.

noDNA is a company based in Berlin, Germany, that manufactures motion capture sensory equipment and also sells robots and parts to the education and hobby markets. The companys’ core expertise is in the domain of combining mechanical structures with sensors. One of her products is the exoskeleton “FullBodyTracker” a mechanical device which can be worn by a human to detect and capture all limb, finger and face motions in realtime.

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