The possibilities with robotics are only as big as our ambition, and with our King Kong installation that means pretty big.
To mark the release of Warner Bros’ film Kong: Skull Island, we teamed up with Madame Tussauds to create two life-size robotic King Kong heads – one to be installed in New York and the other in London.
Feel the robot roar
Kong is more than just a large animatronic head. He is interactive and equipped with two laser ranging sensors on him that detect people nearby.
This means wherever you go, Kong’s eyes follow, always watching. His eyes and lips move in a true to life fashion, and if someone dares to stand in front of him, Kong unleashes a mighty roar accompanied by a blast of air.
All of our robots have the ability to make eye contact. If you were talking to a person and they were staring at your nose or mouth or cheeks, it would feel uncomfortable and off putting.
This is especially true for our humanoid robots. If a human-sized robot looks even slightly to the side and not directly in people’s eyes, it doesn’t feel realistic. So we’ve designed our own innovative cameras that go inside the eyes of all of our Mesmer and RoboThespian robots.
Kong uses similar tech on a larger scale using sensors that scan the entire room, ensuring he is following people wherever they go.
Collaborating to create a king
Kong’s appearance was created by Millennium FX, an animatronics and prosthetics company we’ve collaborated with before that does a lot of work within the film industry. Meanwhile, at Engineered Arts, we provided all of the mechanics. This includes Kong’s framework and the mechanics to actuate his movements, as well as creating the software to determine how he acts.
Millennium FX created the outer shell, alongside the realistic skin and hair for Kong. The main difficulty with creating prosthetics for long-lasting robots is that they need to be durable and need to be tailor made for each robot. We’ve now innovated a specialist way of creating skin for robots that you can see on our Mesmer robot.
Making things go smoothly
When building robots that are going to be in regular use for years on end, such as Kong, it’s important that they’re built robustly.
To this end, we created a couple of versions of Kong to test out and optimise before shipping the two final products to New York and London to be assembled.
If further support is needed for any reason, we can log in remotely to our robots to check their sensors and motors are all running correctly. This means we can diagnose any issues – and in most cases fix them – remotely.
Almost anything is possible with robotics and if the vision is there, we’ll innovate and strive to achieve it. Kong is testament to this innovation and all these years later he’s still a roaring success.