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How Disney built and programmed an animatronic president | Ars Technica

Tue, 06/24/2014 - 13:57 -- rprice

According to an article from the defunct Persistence of Vision, Audio-Animatronics figures' sounds were recorded onto tape, like a bird's chirping. When the tape was played back, the sound would cause a metal reed in the system to vibrate. The reed's vibration would close a circuit, allowing electricity to cross it and power a pneumatic valve in the figure to move (in the case of a bird, opening its mouth). When the sound stopped, the circuit would open again, and the bird's mouth would return to its neutral, closed position. This way, the motion was dependent upon the sound, so the two would always operate together to create a realistic display of a singing bird. The Enchanted Tiki Room opened in Disneyland in 1962, first as a restaurant and then as a standalone attraction. Throughout, the implementation remained simplistic. Disney was initially motivated to bring robots to life as a form of real-life animation, essentially taking movies off the screen and into three-dimensional space. But by the time the tiki room debuted, Disney's team had been quietly pursuing a more ambitious goal—experimenting with more complex systems that could mimic human beings. They were getting close.