New Disney Robot Plays Catch, Juggles

Make no mistake: The Walt Disney Company may have begun as a simple animation studio, but these days it’s at the forefront of a variety of innovative technologies.

Namely, Autonomatronics.

They’ve already developed some shockingly realistic skin for their robots, and now they’re taking humanoid robot development one step forward by making their animatronics far more interactive.

In this case, the mad scientists over at Disney Research have created a robot that can play catch with humans.

“Using an animatronic humanoid robot, we developed a test bed for a throwing and catching game scenario. We use an external camera system (ASUS Xtion PRO LIVE) to locate balls and a Kalman filter to predict ball destination and timing.

The robot’s hand and joint-space are calibrated to the vision coordinate system using a least-squares technique, such that the hand can be positioned to the predicted location. Successful catches are thrown back two and a half meters forward to the participant, and missed catches are detected to trigger suitable animations that indicate failure.”

All of this is really just a natural evolution of Walt Disney’s original audio-animatronics, such as the one used in the Great Moments with Mr. Lincoln exhibit at the 1964 New York World’s Fair.

Back then, the audio-animatronics could only act out pre-recorded movements and audio, but as you can see in the above video, things are becoming a bit more interesting.

“Yeah, but, John — If The Pirates of the Caribbean breaks down, the pirates don’t eat the tourists.”

Not yet, Dr. Malcolm. Not yet.


Rob Schwarz

Writer, blogger, and part-time peddler of mysterious tales. Editor-in-chief of Stranger Dimensions.