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RE: Mobile T.rex

It was lots of fun to work with Hall on this; like Jim said he is really a
brilliant guy.  Basically what we did was have an AMNH animator come up with
a T. rex walking animation. Then Steve Gatesy and I tweaked it to make it
match what we thought a T. rex would walk like (at a brisk pace), based on
our research (biomechanical models, extant analogs/homologs, anatomy, and
yes, ultimately some intuitive guesswork, etc).  It was fun to try to decide
how to make the tail and other body segments move and still convey the
impression of large mass to the viewer, which is often the failing point of
many dinosaur animations as it is rather non-intuitive, in a way.  I hope
that overall we succeeded.  Hall's robotic was flexible enough to match the
final animation, after several months of animation revisions. I'm still
scatching my head on how Hall came up with the machinery ideas; I've never
seen anything quite like it.  Still haven't seen it in the flesh, err,
bolts, and am bummed I have to wait for my visit to the opening in May.

The animation will be ~synched with the robotic to show a whole fleshed-out
tyrannosaur, so you can simultaneously visualize the skeleton with the
robotic, and the whole fleshy animal with the animation.  As part of this,
there will be an interactive exhibit where you can play with biomechanical
variables like posture, center of mass position, and muscle mass to see if
you can make T. rex run, and how fast.  Many answers are possible; the point
is to see the tradeoffs, limits, and comparisons w/living animals.  It will
hopefully have a broader impact as an educational tool about locomotor
biomechanics.  Unfortunately the robot/animation won't be interactive; maybe
another time.

The exciting thing for me as a scientist is the chance to alter the
robotic/animation in the future to accomodate new information about
tyrannosaur locomotion, showing science as a process.  Although in the end,
I'm not sure how much the politics of the exhibit will allow that (museums
don't like you to change such things, sadly).  Also I bet we'll end up
learning a lot about theropod locomotion from Hall's robo-puppets as he's
managed to boil down locomotion (especially control of motion, and joint
kinematic constraints) to some very basic parameters in a rather novel way.

--John R. Hutchinson 

> -----Original Message-----
> From: James R. Cunningham [mailto:jrccea@bellsouth.net] 
> Sent: 01 April 2005 21:06
> To: rtravsky@uwyo.edu
> Cc: dinosaur@usc.edu
> Subject: Re: Mobile T.rex
> When you watch the swinging tail and hips of the miniature 
> from below, it is
> very obvious that the tail is both balancing the animal and 
> helping to drive
> the legs; the hips oscillate back and forth in synch.  The 
> tail is obviously
> quite central to locomotion in rexes. Quite fascinating and 
> lovely to watch.
> JimC