3D Imaging Brings Robots to Life

Projects - P.K.D. Android

For several years now, Direct Dimensions has enjoyed working with David Hanson, founder of Hanson Robotics and a pioneer in the field of human-like robotics. Dr. Hanson is considered a leader in the field of social robotics since his robots are created to engage humans socially through conversation and facial movements.

The collaboration with Hanson began in 2005, when Direct Dimensions joined a team working on the Phillip K. Dick robot. The Philip K. Dick android represents the first human-emulating robot complete with artificial intelligence, lifelike facial expressions, and even a human voice. The android not only possesses a human-like physiognomy, it also has the ability to recognize people.

One of the problems in creating a life-like face is fitting the outer shell (in other words, the androids face) to the various internal electronic components. Dr. Hanson wanted to use a 3D computer model to virtually fit these electronics inside. The CAD model would also be used to fabricate the production skull using rapid prototyping.

Hanson found Direct Dimensions and we laser scanned and digitally modeled the inner skeletal shell and outer hand-sculpted P.K. Dick android face. DDI technicians scanned the hand-sculpted pieces with a FaroArm-based laser line scanner to capture every element of the likeness. From there, PolyWorks software was used to digitally model the data into high-resolution watertight polygonal mesh models for Hanson’s team to use.

The Phillip K. Dick Robot debuted in public for the first time to much acclaim at Wired magazine’s huge annual NextFest technology fair in 2005 in Chicago. Both Wired and PC Magazine declared Dr. Hanson “a genius” and the crowds were stunned by the android’s ability to converse and his incredibly life-like facial expressions.

Following the success of the first project, Hanson Robotics and Direct Dimensions teamed up again to work on a very similar process for the “Jules” robot. This android was featured at NextFest in New York in 2006.

A third collaboration required a slightly different expertise from the team at Direct Dimensions. Hanson Robotics had been commissioned to create a robot of a real living person, Bina. Many of Dr. Hanson’s previous efforts had been given amalgamations of facial features, such as his Jules and Vera robots, or were based on photographs of people, such as the Phllip K. Dick android. This Bina robot would give Hanson Robotics a whole new opportunity to showcase their ability to create life-like robots and of course Direct Dimensions was excited to be involved.

Using a mixture of traditional face casting techniques and 3D facial scanning, DDI technicians were able to capture all facets of the real Bina’s face, including subtle smile lines. Hanson was able to use the file to re-create an exact copy of Bina’s face using his patented “Frubber” material, a very light weight, flesh look alike substance that allows for substantial facial movements while using very little energy.

The Hanson Robotics website says, “The next step in human evolution isn’t human” and the social robots they create are certainly astonishingly real. As technology evolves, so too will these robots and their capabilities. Direct Dimensions is proud to be a part of such ground breaking projects and will continue to lend our cutting-edge 3D scanning and face scanning technologies towards their creation.

To see Phillip K Dick and “Jules” in action:
P.K.D. Android

You can visit the Hanson Robotics website and learn about their new “Zeno” robot at: