Term of Award

Spring 2015

Degree Name

Master of Science in Applied Engineering (M.S.A.E.)

Document Type and Release Option

Thesis (open access)

Copyright Statement / License for Reuse

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.


Department of Mechanical Engineering

Committee Chair

Biswanath Samanta

Committee Member 1

Brian Vlcek

Committee Member 2

Christopher Kadlec


In theme park based entertainment applications, there is a need for interactive, autonomous animatronic systems to create engaging and compelling experiences for the guests. The animatronic figures must identify the guests and recognize their status in dynamic interactions for enhanced acceptance and effectiveness as socially interactive agents, in the general framework of human-robot interactions. The design and implementation of an interactive, autonomous animatronic system in form of a tabletop dragon and the comparisons of guest responses in its passive and interactive modes are presented in this work. The dragon capabilities include a four degrees-of-freedom head, moving wings, tail, jaw, blinking eyes and sound effects. Human identification, using a depth camera (Carmine from PrimeSense), an open-source middleware (NITE from OpenNI), Java-based Processing and an Arduino microcontroller, has been implemented into the system in order to track a guest or guests, within the field of view of the camera. The details of design and construction of the dragon model, algorithm development for interactive autonomous behavior using a vision system, the experimental setup and implementation results under different conditions are presented. Guest experiences with the dragon operating in passive and interactive configurations have been compared both quantitatively and qualitatively through surveys and observations, for different age groups, from elementary school children to college students. Statistical significance of the survey results are presented along with a discussion on the scope of further work.

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