ABB Robots Rock - Literally

April 1, 2010
Who said industrial robots can't rock? Not Bon Jovi who is using five industrial robots on stage as part of the show of his "The Circle Tour."

{mosimage}The tour, which opened February 19th in Seattle’s Key Arena, uses five ABB IRB 7600 industrial robots positioned toward the back of the stage, each with a 6’ x 9’ LED video panel attached to its articulated arm. The robots and screens are integral to the concert production, moving to the rhythm and beat of the music while displaying real time video footage of the show and digital animations. At various intervals the five robot arms move into a formation where the LED panels become one continuous, five panel screen. The robots will accompany the nearly two-year long tour, which currently features approximately 60 concerts in North America and Europe, with additional dates likely to be scheduled. This will be the band’s longest tour since the late 1980s.

The creative concept that brings the robots to life on stage is RoboScreen, a patented technology developed by inventor Andy Flessas, the founder and president of Robotic Arts of Las Vegas, Nev. Flessas’ experience with robots began in the mid-1990s, and reached elite status in 2006 when he completed a robotic programming, design and operation certification program at the ABB training facility in Auburn Hills, MI. Along the way he developed the idea of mounting a graphic screen on a robotic arm to bring controlled movement to the visual media and create a unique viewer experience.

The intelligence that allows the robots to be precisely choreographed with the music and the onstage production is Robot Animator, a software program extension that enables 3D computer animation. The proprietary software developed by Flessas provides a separate interface to animate the movement of the ABB robots as if they were on-screen characters. Once the desired movement is established Robot Animator channels the code directly into ABB’s IRC controller and the robots replicate the movement on stage.

“Andy Flessas is a true visionary and we are excited about the unique application he has developed for ABB robots,” said Joe Campbell, vice president of sales and marketing, ABB Robotics, North America. “This collaboration with Robotic Arts and Bon Jovi is certainly one of the most unique applications we have been involved with.”

The design and integration of the rigging system that allows the five RoboScreens to fit seamlessly into the touring platform was done by Tait Towers, the world renowned tour production company headquartered in Lititz, Pa.
The Circle Tour is the second major entertainment production that ABB robots have been involved with in the span of a year. In 2009 a series of ABB robots were extensively featured in the climactic scene of the “Terminator Salvation” movie starring Christian Bale.

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