Beachbot is a new robot from Disney Research and ETH Zurich capable of drawing designs on beach sand. The orange-and-white robotic artist is designed to resemble a turtle, with a rounded top and a protrusion resembling a head and two eyes.

Disney Research developed the Beachbot, which draws large designs on the sand, using a rake-like instrument. Billled as the "Worlds first autonomous sand art robot," this mechanized artist accepts commands to create art, sent through an application.

Beachbot is two feet long, and 16 inches wide. The vehicle travels on three wheels - two in the back, and one in the front, utilized for steering. A variable rake system behind the robot creates the designs in the sand. Lines can be as thin as five inches, or as wide as two feet. Beachbot utilizes poles with reflective targets, combined with a laser scanner, to provide accurate navigation.

"To withstand the rough condition on the beach, the robot must be completely sealed from sand. An aluminum shell and sealing lips make sure no sand enters the interior of the BeachBot. Smart software is used to transform images into sand art as well as to control the robot's movement to ensure a spectacular drawing process," Beachbot developers wrote on a Web page, detailing the autonomous artist.

Several prototypes and test mechanisms were constructed during the design process for Beachbot. An initial test was carried out on a bed mimicking beach conditions, using around 100 cubic feet of sand.

One of the biggest challenges facing developers was creating a set of algorithms capable of converting a given design to a trajectory that the robot could follow.

"The Beachbot can then determine its position on the canvas to a high degree of accuracy using depth sensing and IMU (inertial measurement unit) technology. Artwork can be pre-programmed as the robot can draw lines or create block-filled areas. Alternately manual remote can be used to turn a beach into a live sketchpad," Disney Research managers stated in a video description, showing off the robot.

Beachbot still needs further development before it is able to create large designs entirely on its own, with no need for human intervention. Designs created by the robot still require humans to go and "touch up" the artwork created by the system. Developers hope that future versions of the Beachbot will not need human assistance.

Practical uses for the Beachbot are limited, however resorts may use them to create temporary advertising on the sand.

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