The beauty of robots is that you can design them to do anything, from something as useful to vacuuming your floor, to something as useless as drawing a giant recreation of Nemo in the sand, which is exactly what Beachbot does. The result of a coalition between Disney Research and Swiss Engineering school ETH Zurich, this turtle-like robot draws pictures on the beach using a sand rake.
Look — I love my job. But damn do the folks at Disney’s research labs have a fun looking gig. We’ve seen them build systems that let them 3D print impossible spinning tops, software to turn 3D models into massive parade balloons, and solutions for doing motion capture outdoors with nothing but a few GoPros. Now they’re building robots that can draw sprawling pictures across the beach. The robot — aptly called “Beachbot” — works by dragging a set of pins through the sand, sort of like a rake. Each pin is individually raisable, allowing the bot to draw lines of varying thicknesses. More pins down = thicker lines drawn. The artist behind the robot starts a canvas by setting down poles, which the robot uses as markers to finely calculate its position. At that point, the robot can be passed an image file to draw automatically, or the artists can steer it manually.