As robotics technology becomes more advanced and more accessible, we’ve seen an increase in robotic companion products come to market, intended to simulate human interaction.
Sphero’s latest product, Ultimate Lightning McQueen, displays the company’s engineering and design mastery of life-like robotics technology. Similar to the BB-8 Droid, this new product in partnership with Pixar is packed with impressive animatronics features that bring the product to life.
And a quick look at Lightning's life-like movement (automatic as well as activated by touch) beneath his exterior:
For this teardown, we’re going to focus on some of the most important features that deliver this life-like result:
1. Emotive suspension - Lightning’s front wheels can move in 2 axes, mimicking what you see in the Cars movie, giving this toy a life-like quality.
2. Animatronic face - an animatronic mouth piece combined with eyes displayed by a custom LCD give Lightning facial expressions and personality.
3. Capacitive touch sensors - there are five sensors installed on the top enclosure so the product reacts to being touched.
Quick reminder that Fictiv is a manufacturing platform and our expertise is around the mechanical side of hardware development. So for teardowns, we dig into the mechanical systems and leave the electrical analysis to our EE friends.
Let's dive in!
Ultimate Lightning McQueen was so cute, cheeky, and life-like that we may have had some (emotional) trouble tearing it down. It kept talking as we opened it up... saying something about a tune up.
Although it’s not a small toy, it’s the most tightly-packed toy we’ve seen in a teardown. Six gearboxes, a battery, and a large speaker in the boot take up most of the room inside the car. There’s no artificial weight—this thing is actually packed full of mechatronics goodness.
As mechanical engineers, we can appreciate how much work went into such a complex system. The attention to detail is also marvelous. For example:
It’s a high end toy with a price tag to match, but making everything just right doesn’t come cheap.
The systems integration challenge also can't be overlooked—it must have taken a lot of blood, sweat, and tears to sync all the actuators to make the overall motion fluid and lifelike. I can just imagine the Pixar stakeholders telling the engineers to try again because it’s not quite like the movie character!
Kudos Sphero—Lightning is a mechanical marvel and we’re headed back to the store to buy another one to play with.
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