Technical innovation has always played a part in live theatre, whether in the form of mechanical pieces like lifts and trapdoors to the more recent integration of digital media. The advances of the art form encourage the development of technology, and at the same time, technological development enables the advancement of theatrical expression. As mechanics, lighting, sound, and visual media have made their way into the spotlight, advances in theatrical robotics continue to push for their inclusion in the director's toolbox. However, much of the technology available is gated by high prices and unintuitive interfaces, designed for large troupes and specialized engineers, making it difficult to access for small schools and students new to the medium. As a group of engineering students with a vested interest in the development of the arts, this thesis team designed a system that will enable troupes from any background to participate in the advent of affordable automation. The intended result of this thesis project was to create a robotic platform that interfaces with custom software, receiving commands and transmitting position data, and to design that software so that a user can define intuitive cues for their shows. In addition, a new pathfinding algorithm was developed to support free-roaming automation in a 2D space. The final product consisted of a relatively inexpensive (< $2000) free-roaming platform, made entirely with COTS and standard materials, and a corresponding control system with cue design, wireless path following, and position tracking. This platform was built to support 1000 lbs, and includes integrated emergency stopping. The software allows for custom cue design, speed variation, and dynamic path following. Both the blueprints and the source code for the platform and control system have been released to open-source repositories, to encourage further development in the area of affordable automation. The platform itself was donated to the ASU School of Theater.
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