Have any of you been watching Wallace and Gromit’s new program on BBC1? It’s basically like a new version of Tomorrow’s World with Wallace acting as the presenter and Gromit taking the role of the funny side-kick.
Not exactly what I expected, and I have to admit that I was somewhat disappointed, but I stuck with it – and pretty glad that I did so, because one of the items in the first program was pretty amazing.
The feature was about a German engineering company called Festo that sells pneumatic and electric actuators (whatever they are!) to the automotive industry. Pretty boring I hear you say… Well, I would normally agree with you, expect that they were demonstrating an amazing, fully mechanical, remote controlled flying manta ray. It was oddly beautiful.
It is made up of a helium filled balloon and has a mechanism that allows the wings of the ray to flap just as they do in real life. You have to check it out.
The helium provides the buoyancy needed for the ray to “take flight” and the skeleton-like structure inside provides the movement. Amazing!
If you go on their website, you can see how they have been studying the movement of real manta rays and how they constructed the internal skeleton base on nature. It looks remarkably like the process 3D artists go through to model and rig CG creatures.