The engineering behind the Alive Elvis

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themeparkdad
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The engineering behind the Alive Elvis

A collection of information about the engineering behind the Alive Elvis.  Answering questions such as, "Who designed it?", "What's in it?", "How was it created?", "Who is the voice of Elvis?", etc.

themeparkdad
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George York designed the Alive Elvis. He originally founded YFX Studios in 1995, which is now YoHa Technology.
Impersonator Jamie Aaron Kelly provided the voice.
Elvis' monologues were chosen by Jerry Osborne, a Presley expert.

Uses a 16 bit microprocessor with 16MB of flash memory, 10 Watt sound system.

Alive Elvis Robot bust

http://www.tcb-world.com/showthread.php?15876-Alive-Elvis-Robot-bust

Alive Elvis Robot bust
What sings like Elvis, lip-synchs better than Britney and runs on batteries? It's the Alive Elvis robotic bust.

By Kevin Coughlin, Newhouse News Service

Last update: October 05, 2007 ? 5:49 PM

Parents: Are you an advocate or adversary?
Write, call now to avert avalanche of holiday mailings
If you could invite any historical figure over for dinner, Elvis would be a no-brainer. Too bad he's left the building. Or has he?
Thanks to Wowwee Ltd., you can dine with the King. Just make sure he gets the head table.

The $300 Alive Elvis is a robotic bust that looks, talks and sings just like Elvis Aaron Presley, circa his '68 comeback special. Plug the included cartridge into his neck, punch some buttons on a mock microphone, and Alive Elvis launches into eight songs and three dozen monologues. His eyes blink. His gaze follows you, via infrared sensors in his leather jacket.

His lip does that trademark curl. Add a real microphone, and you can sing along. How convincing is Alive Elvis?

He lip-synchs a lot better than Britney Spears. "Either you like it, or you're scared by it," said George York, who designed the talking head.

York has dared to tread into what robot mavens call the Uncanny Valley, where cool borders on creepy. Honda's ASIMO robo-valet and Sony's AIBO robo-dog are cute and cartoonish, to avoid scaring the children. Alive Elvis is for grown-ups, who still pine for their idol three decades after his death. It was the perfect challenge for a guy trained in forensic reconstruction. Give York a sun-bleached skull, he'll put the face back on it. But Hollywood special effects are his bread and butter. Remember the mutant cockroaches in the 1997 film "Mimic"?

"I was the mandibles guy," York says.

His animatronic chimp, for an Indian film company wary of animal rights groups, caught the eye of Hong Kong-based Wowwee, best known for its Roboraptor and Robosapien robot toys. That led to last year's Alive Chimpanzee, from which Elvis evolved (robotically speaking).

Alive Elvis outperforms the faux primate in every category but one: The singer is stone deaf. The $70 chimp responds when you shout or cuff him about the ears. With Elvis, York says, "that would be kind of rude." Ten motors move Alive Elvis' rubbery face. His brain is a 16-bit micro-controller with 16 megabytes of flash memory. He runs on house current or a fistful of batteries. A charter member of the Hair Club for Androids, Alive Elvis sports implants in his forehead for extra realism. But the technology was easy.

Wooing Graceland, that was tough.

The initial reaction there, York recalls, "was disgust." A prototype won over the Presley estate. Then the real work began. York says Graceland demanded more than 20 subtle changes to the King's nose, lips, teeth and irises. Elvis' monologues were chosen by Jerry Osborne, a Presley expert, and the voice was courtesy of Jamie Aaron Kelly. Recording an impersonator yielded purer audio for the 10-watt sound system, and was easier to synchronize with the robot's lips, York said. Graceland did not respond to requests for comment.

Licensing issues precluded using certain songs; Wowwee says you probably won't see an Alive John Lennon anytime soon for legal reasons. There aren't too many other global celebrities worthy of such treatment -- though macabre minds might ponder the Halloween possibilities. Freddy Krueger? Marie Antoinette?

Actually, the Stepford Wives may be more like it. Wowwee is working on $1,000 robots to help around the house. "The idea is to make something everyone can afford," says Art Janis, a sales vice president for Wowwee. As a Beatles fan growing up in California in the late '60s, York never grasped the Elvis phenomenon. Now, after touring Graceland, studying mountains of photos and hours of films, and laboring for almost three years with a small crew on this project, he finally gets Elvis.

"He has a charisma unparalleled by any performer I've seen," York said. "When he sings, he puts his whole heart and soul in it."

And that's just the robot.

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George York is an electronics engineer and mechanical designer from Sacramento, California. As owner of YFX Studio, he has over 20 years of experience with robots, animatronics and special effects. His many works include a life-like bust of Julius Caesar for Caesars Las Vegas and his own company creating effects and animatronics.

http://www.yfxstudio.com

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YoHa Technology Inc. is an exciting new company that designs and develops innovative high-tech animated products in the consumer entertainment. Yoha Technology is a Hong Kong based company with offices in San Jose and Sacramento, California. Our objectives are to manufacture, market, and sell cutting-edge world-class products.

Originally founded in 1995 as YFX Studios, YoHa Technology is a company offshoot derived from its creative force in both consumer and entertainment technologies - with marketing and manufacturing appealing towards the sophisticated consumer.

The founder, George York, pursued a partnership with a major Hong Kong toy manufacturer in 2004. The partnership allowed Mr.York the position as the Primary Inventor, Chief Designer, and Manufacturing Director for the implementation of toys in the WowWee "Alive" division. This lead to unique manufacturing processes with cutting-edge techniques for the production of the Wow-Wee Alive Chimpanzee, Elvis and Alive Cubs.

In early 2008, YoHa Technology was born. During the course of Research and Development, Mr. York developed a process of mobilizing a bipedal creature with a minimal amount of motors and non-sophisticated electronics to enhance the marketability of the product. Mr. York will apply the same concept and approach to his current line of high-tech animatronic novelty products for the future direction of the company.

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George York is the founder and CEO and of Yoha Technology Co. Ltd. His talents comprise of many years experience with all facets in the design, research and development, manufacturing and the operation with his prior involvement of a technology based company. With the combined merger of that company into YoHa Technologies, and his expertise and credentials in professional, educational, technical trades, IEEE call for papers, and technical publications; Mr.York soon to be developed the first product of The Living Legends? series.
Mr. York's extraordinary accomplishments are the development of special tooling applications, unique overseas production processes, engineering, and the design applications of past projects have enabled Mr. York's abilities to oversee this new company venture. Mr. York's duties will oversee the conceptual design, day-to-day management and operation, process manufacturing, and Research and Development activities.
Mr. York also has a network of professionals in a wide range of skilled trades and businesses, and has recommended numerous people with expertise in fields directly related to the development of other related products. With this combined team effort YoHa Technology Co. Ltd will bring many new and innovative products to the market.

GWJax
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Interesting reading!! Thanks for posting this for us.

Jax

Goldenshuttle
Goldenshuttle's picture

Please Help..I bought a used Elvis Alive from Ebay; seller denied that he sent me a non working unit. Physically its in very good condition....

here is what I tried:

- Used fresh batteries

-Used orignial adaptor.

-switched it on and off (it only moved its neck a bit like he's waking up, and speakers click), but nothing happens after that.

-I followed instructions manual.

Please any advise, I like to see it in action...

many thanks

 

GWJax
GWJax's picture

Goldenshuttle said: Please Help..I bought a used Elvis Alive from Ebay; seller denied that he sent me a non working unit. Physically its in very good condition.... here is what I tried: - Used fresh batteries -Used orignial adaptor. -switched it on and off (it only moved its neck a bit like he's waking up, and speakers click), but nothing happens after that. -I followed instructions manual. Please any advise, I like to see it in action... many thanks

What has happened is that the head bracket was left screwed on and the power applied. When this happens it will break the neck wormgear shaft holder then bind up and stop the test routine.

To repair it just open up the Elvis per my instruction in the Elvinator Project article 1. Once you open it up you will see the broken part. Remove the motor and untwist the wires. next get a large washer that will hold down the motor and screw it back in. reassemble and your done.

Some where in the community I have these instructions with photos but I don't know where it is right now. Hope this helps a bit for you.

 

Jax

Goldenshuttle
Goldenshuttle's picture

Thanks alot man; weekend is close; I will try ur advice...and sure will report back. many many thanks

Goldenshuttle
Goldenshuttle's picture

GWJax; smart guy; you were pinpoint right; I disengaged the neck worm gear; then opened the geabox to find a small gear brocken; and therefore; the position wheel that feeds the IR position reader loose and not moving. Please do you if there is assembley pics of inside the gearbox on this forum? I think the small gear that broke was the one on the motor shaft and sitting with it the IR position disk...I hope to see pics inside the gearbox so that I can find a replacement from a toy or something....

Smith123
Smith123's picture

Help having the same problem, my elvis doesn't work, it's making a really loud noise, think the motor underneath is locking any IDea how to fix it please

Goldenshuttle
Goldenshuttle's picture

You gotta open it man...it maybe stuck, also the limits switched under the neck check if any of them is not working..usecontinuity tester...i think GW n retroplayer are the best on this robot.

JAmi
JAmi's picture

My ELVIS HAS DEVELOPED A LAZY EYE, ONE IS WIDE OPEN AND THE OTHER IS HALF AFACED AS NORMAL. WHAT CAN I DO? LOL. EYE DOCTOR??

JAmi
JAmi's picture

My Elvis's eye is stuck wide open, any suggestions what to do?

JAmi
JAmi's picture

My Elvis's eye is stuck wide open, any help??