Disney Imagineering, renowned for its innovative entertainment creations, showcased its latest robotic marvel at the International Conference on Intelligent Robots and Systems in Detroit. This bipedal robot, developed in under a year by Disney Research in Zurich, exhibits impressive capabilities that set it apart from previous creations.
The robot, primarily 3D printed, can walk independently and maintain balance, even when faced with challenging terrain or unexpected disturbances. What sets it apart is its ability to convey emotion through its movements, a crucial aspect of Disney’s immersive experiences.
The team behind the robot worked closely with animators to ensure it could express emotions while remaining stable, a unique approach compared to traditional animatronics.
The expressive features include two antennas that mimic cat ear movements and a head that can tilt, turn, and move to convey different emotions through body language. This blend of emotion and functionality is achieved using an animation-inspired pipeline, allowing Disney to develop new robotic characters in a matter of months, a significant advancement in the field.
Another interesting thing is that Disney designed the platform to be “hardware agnostic,” enabling the application of these principles to characters with diverse body styles. This flexibility facilitates the creation of a wide range of robotic characters, reducing the development time considerably.
Despite its similarities to beloved Disney characters and iconic Star Wars droids, this particular robot won’t be gracing Disney Parks anytime soon — Disney has previously revealed similar concept robots resembling characters like Groot and Judy Hopps; Nevertheless, this latest development demonstrates the remarkable progress made in robotics, raising the possibility of fully mobile Disney animatronics in the future.