On The Run is a computer animated cartoon that uses automated computer characters: no behavior was hand animated. The work explores how techniques from robotics can be be applied to computer animation. The characters were animated automatically, using physics-based simulation and task-level control. Physics-based simulation allowed the creatures to move with physical realism without needing an animator to specify all the details: masses fall, springy things bounce, pendulums swing, etc. Task-level control allows the creatures to move in response to general instructions, such as the speed and direction of travel, changes of gait, and maneuvers. The control system knows how to regulate the low-level joint motions and muscle forces so the animator is free to specify higher-level information. The idea is to let the animator work more like the director of a play who gives high-level instructions to skilled actors, who then control their own movements. We provided each computer character with a control system and physics-based simulation so they could move on their own: no hand animation was used. In the future, such automated creatures may find roles in interactive education, engineering, and entertainment.
On The Run appeared in the SIGGRAPH'91 Electronic Theater and won first prize in the Research Category at Imagina'92.
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