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Animatronic Policeman - the Police Federation August 2003
In partnership with Gems Display Figures

The animatronic policeman was created for the British Police Federation to interact with politicians at the Party Political Conferences of 2003. The figure sat on a bed in an iron barred prison cell on the Police Federation's stand and Politicians were invited in to read out questions from one of two scripts each with 14 questions and the animatronic policeman gave relevant replies explaining that there is so much paperwork that they don't have enough time to police.
The skin of the head was silicone, which allowed for realistic facial movements; and the controller, MP3 player and speakers were inside the body, so the figure was self contained needing only a mains power socket.

Charles Kennedy, the Lib Dem Leader, was snapped inside a cell on the Police Federation stand at the party's conference in Brighton; - The SUN 25 September 2003.

The MP was let into the cell, sat on a chair in front of the figure and read out a series of questions from a script on a clipboard. There were two scripts, one regarding 'anti-social behaviour' and the other 'burglaries', each script had ten questions for the prisoner to which 'he' gave replies.

After answering scripted questions put by MPs the figure explained that there is so much paperwork that they don't have enough time to police and then pleaded guilty to the charge of not being able to carry out the duties the public want, the service they demand and the service 'he' wanted to give.

The policeman was operated by a 'handler' hidden in the crowd who selected the desired answer to the question or, if the MP had asked a non scripted question, a generic non committal answer. Communication from the handler to the policeman was by an infra red link, the handler pressing the relevant button on an IR handset.

After answering the question the figure would return to 'reading' a 'red tape' document on his knee.

The movements of the figure during a reply were scripted and the figure taught by guiding it through the desired moves henceforth referred to as an Act.

In between replies the figure ran a personality program which caused it to move its head and eyes as if it were reading the 'red tape' and occasionally look up and around as if thinking.

When a reply was called for by the handler the software inserted the moves for the reply and blended the start and end transitions so there was no perceptible start or stop to the act, it also selected and played back the appropriate sound file.

The head of the figure could nod and turn, and had eyes which could scan right or left and a mouth which could open and close, all movements were proportional, and used four servo controlled electric motors.

The figure was self contained with the exception of a bass-speaker, which was too large for inclusion, and the IR-receiver which was mounted in a convenient position in the cell. The control computer, audio amplifier, MP3-player for the sound files, audio 'tweeter' speakers and the power supplies were all mounted in the figure. Three cables plugged into the figure, mains electricity, a cable to the bass-speaker, and a cable to the IR receiver.

The main control computer in the body was in charge of all functions of the figure including

A secondary microcontroller converted the MP3 sound file channel for the mouth into signals appropriate for the mouth servo.

Sound files were stored in MP3 format on Compact Flash cards to be replayed by the built in MP3 player.

The personality program ensured the pose of the figure at the start of any particular reply would always be different and so because of the blending, the movements for any particular reply would always be slightly different adding to the realism..

Similarly on any particular reply, because of slight variations in the time the MP3 signal was sampled and the filtering employed, the movement of the lips was always slightly different again adding to the realism.