Bug, Firefly, and I got to take a tour of a local Animatronics studio. For those of you not familiar with that word (like me), animatronics are essentially robots that are created to appear like animals or people, with lifelike movements and appearances.
Think Chuck E. Cheese, or Disney World.
I had no idea that our close-by city had an actual, real-life robot factory!
And that we could actually tour it!
But, yes, both of those facts were true, and we happily headed downtown last week to check it all out.
Our first stop on the tour was in a room that housed an amusement park-like game, complete with blacklights and laser guns. Here, we met our tour guide and got to hear a little about the factory, what the company does, and what kinds of things we were going to be able to see.
Then, each kiddo got a turn to play the shooting game. In the picture above, you can maybe make out some "target" lights--one is red and at the base of the spooky flower, and one is green and hanging out on the tombstone. Those were the places to aim your shots. Hitting the targets got you points and a scary surprise.
After we all took turns playing, we headed out on the tour. The first stop was the design area (where no pictures were allowed). Many designers were hard at work, using some of the coolest computer graphic technology that I've ever seen--in my many years of studying graphic design, lol!
The next stop was this room of clay figures. Here, the artist makes the picture designs come to life in clay. The clay is then put through a process (which our guide described so much more clearly than I can), that turns it into a mold used to make the plastic-y, silicone-y masks.
I love that our tour guide tried on the masks for us!
After the molds are complete, they are put onto the robotic frame. In these pictures above, you can see the inner workings of the robot and his pneumatic cylinders. We were told a little bit about the process of "dressing up" the robots, including how the (real, human) hair is individually looped into the masks.
The rest of our tour led us through the remainder of the factory. We got to see some of the large displays they are currently working on,
some of their most well-known,
and even some headed to faraway lands. The penguin extravaganza will be headed to a hotel in China later this year. And, yes, the penguins all sing and dance--but it's all in Chinese!
This was one of the most interesting field trips we've done this year! If you have a factory / workshop near you, I would highly recommend it...
...you might even get to leave with your own robot!