In animation school, one of the first exercises is to animate is a bouncing ball. A simple exercise that introduces the core concepts of depicting motion. The next exercise is to take that bouncing ball and give it the "Illusion of life", and creating a connection between the audience and the image. Appealing characters make you sympathize with them, believe they are real, and want to interact. Coming from a background in computer animation, I wanted to bring along these core concepts as I explored the world of robotics. For me, the fascination with robotics lay in the possibilities for creating that illusion of life, and inspiring the desire to interact with something that would respond in turn.
When first designing Gertie, I wanted a robot that would be those things. Simple in design, but also be an appealing character. Something that would feel life-like, not creepy or threatening. One of my earliest drawings described the bouncing ball concept, where Gertie would squash and stretch as he landed and leapt back into the air again:
Even though it looked simple-- Gertie a round, pear-shaped jumping robot -- I realized that I would be facing challenges in mechanical and electrical engineering, as well as computer science. This blog will chart my personal journey into these new fields and the things I have learnt along the way. I hope you enjoy it as much as I do!