The staff of Pi Towers are currently melting into puddles while making ‘Aaaawwwwwww’ noises as Mira, the adorable little Pi-controlled robot made by Pixar 3D artist Alonso Martinez, steals their hearts.
Honestly, I can’t type words – I am but a puddle! If I could type at all, I would only produce a stream of affectionate fragments. Imagine walking into a room full of kittens. What you would sound like is what I’d type.
No! I can do this. I’m a professional. I write for a living! I can…
SHE BLINKS OHMYAAAARGH!!!
Introducing Mira (I promise I can do this)
Right. I’ve had a nap and a drink. I’ve composed myself. I am up for this challenge. As long as I don’t look directly at her, I’ll be fine!
Here I go.
As one of the many über-talented 3D artists at Pixar, Alonso Martinez knows a thing or two about bringing adorable-looking characters to life on screen. However, his work left him wondering:
In movies you see really amazing things happening but you actually can’t interact with them – what would it be like if you could interact with characters?
So with the help of his friends Aaron Nathan and Vijay Sundaram, Alonso set out to bring the concept of animation to the physical world by building a “character” that reacts to her environment. His experiments with robotics started with Gertie, a ball-like robot reminiscent of his time spent animating bouncing balls when he was learning his trade. From there, he moved on to Mira.
Mira swivels to follow a person’s face, plays games such as peekaboo, shows surprise when you finger-shoot her, and giggles when you give her a kiss.
Mira’s inner workings
To get Mira to turn her head in three dimensions, Alonso took inspiration from the Microsoft Sidewinder Pro joystick he had as a kid. He purchased one on eBay, took it apart to understand how it works, and replicated its mechanism for Mira’s Raspberry Pi-powered innards.
Mira’s axis of 3D-printed parts moves via tiny Power HD DSM44 servos, while a camera and OpenCV handle face-tracking, and a single NeoPixel provides a range of colours to indicate her emotions. As for the blinking eyes? Two OLED screens boasting acrylic domes fit within the few millimeters between all the other moving parts.
More on Mira, including her history and how she works, can be found in this wonderful video released by Tested this week.
You can also sign up for Alonso’s newsletter here to stay up-to-date about this little robot. Hopefully one of these newsletters will explain how to buy or build your own Mira, as I for one am desperate to see her adorable little face on my desk every day for the rest of my life.