Go ahead, make a move!

The Character Shop creates a robot to help support your health.

Have you ever had an MRI? Besides getting rid of all the metal you have, there’s another thing they tell you to do. "Stay still". But…you’re a human being. You breathe, you twitch. You’re nervous, maybe, perhaps even a little but claustrophobic. You’re not a statue, so you…move. Well, Kineticor Inc. is a company with a fix for that. They have a solution that stabilizes the imagery taken, so even if you *do* move…it’s corrected and golly gee, that data is useful and you don’t have to go through a second time…or spend any more time in that machine than is necessary.

So, the challenge was: how does Kineticor promote and sell this technology? By hiring Rick Lazzarini and the talented Artists and Technicians at The Character Shop to create a very realistic, very specialized robot. One that lays in an MRI bed and…moves the way an MRI patient would. 4 different types of pre-programmed moves, each selectable, that demonstrate how a real human might move…which allows Kineticor to apply their solution and show how they’ve solved this problem.

Kineticor’s Jeffery Yu, in coordination with Siemens, provided the specifications from which The Character Shop worked: It was to be a Female human replica, believably realistic, with a flexible skin, just the torso, no arms, no legs, clad in a polo shirt, and remotely controlled to perform 4 different types of typical movement: Shifting, Nervousneness, Falling Asleep, and even display a slight tic/tremor with Dystonia (which actress Katherine Hepburn famously exhibited in her later years).

The TCS team started out with a choice of basic female forms, then modified the Client’s choice until approved. From that, a master Silicone mold and Epoxy/glass jacket was made. The mold was cleaned, released and prepared then a special mix of silicone, having just the precise durometer, tint, and thickness was made. This formed the robot’s outer skin.

Another epoxy and fiberglass shell was made to serve as her inner ‘skeleton”, or shell, to house the battery, circuit boards, and actuators needed internally. All the mechanisms had to be self-contained.

In the meantime, 3D mechanical designs were worked on and completed in Autodesk Inventor, with working 3D imagery being able to be run “live” through their motions to simulate what they would do in real life. From the dimensions and structures depicted in the Inventor files, actual mounts , couplers, plates, and parts were machined out of Delrin engineering plastic. Meanwhile, actuators were spec’ed, ordered, and installed into the inner structure. Two linear actuators provided Head Up/Down and Head Tilt movements, while a rotary actuator provided head turning Left/Right. Each actuator was mounted compliantly, to give as natural a motion as possible, and that included the use of nylon rods, which flex the way human spinal columns do.

With the inner mechanisms, movement programming, power distribution, and remote control features installed, it was time to cosmetize the silicone skin. The robot was given a photorealistic paint finish, using silicone paints and pigments that would move and stretch. A “little to no” makeup, fresh look was chosen, and then a series of hair styles was offered to the Client. Though her eyes are partway closed, custom human eye replicas still had to be made and properly installed and aligned behind her eyelids, which were compliments by real human hair eyelashes, and the effect completed by amazingly realistic eyebrows.

The result was a solid success, with enthusiastic approvals from Kineticor and Siemens alike. The Character Shop’s experience in blending Technology and Art has benefitted many films and commercials, and it’s clear that it can benefit Medical Technology as well.

Whether you're a Producer, Art Director, Prop Master, Production Designer, Inventor, or Exhibit Designer, you can have incredible animatronic creations for your Production or Project. Need incredible imagination and technological wizardry for your Film, Television Show, or Live Event? Contact The Character Shop at 805-306-9441 or lazzwaldo at mac.com!


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