Disney’s flying robot stunt double can pose just like a superheroJune 30, 2018
If you were going to bet on which technology might soon do the work of a stuntman, you’d probably guess CGI. It turns out robots have a shot, too — robots built by Disney.
A new report from TechCrunch lays out the advances the company has made in the field of animatronics. These are the lifelike, usually static robots, designed to entertain the crowds at Disney theme parks and resorts. Think of the grog-swilling pirates carousing in the Pirates of the Caribbean ride, or the recently unveiled Na’vi in the new Pandora: The World of Avatar attraction.
But a new breed of animatronics are pushing the limits of robot engineering. Following the company’s Stickman project, Disney’s engineers are now building humanoid robots designed to take part in aerial stunts. With the help of laser guiding and built-in accelerometers and gyroscopes, these robots adjust their position in mid-air, nailing that perfect superhero flight pose. You can watch a video of them in action below:
Disney hasn’t said where in its theme parks these robots will end up, but it’s not hard to imagine them dressed up as famous Marvel or Pixar characters, ready to fly across a stage (or should that be fall with style?) as a stand-in for their human counterpart.
Speaking to TechCrunch, Morgan Pope, an associate research scientist at Disney, said that animatronic robots often fall into the “uncanny valley” — that awkward position of being neither fully realistic or obviously fake. But once you launch one off a swing, says Pope, that all goes away.
“When you’re flying through the air, you can have a little bit of function and you can produce a lot of stuff that looks pretty good, because of this really neat physics opportunity,” says Pope. “You’ve got these beautiful kinds of parabolas and sine waves that just kind of fall out of rotating and spinning through the air in ways that are hard for people to predict, but that look fantastic.”
You can check out TechCrunch’s full report for more details.