Tech Crunch reports that for over 50 years, Disneyland and its sister parks have been a showcase for increasingly technically proficient versions of its “animatronic” characters. First pneumatic and hydraulic, and more recently fully electronic, these figures create a feeling of life and emotion inside rides and attractions, in shows and, increasingly, in interactive ways throughout the parks.
The machines they’re creating are becoming more active and mobile in order to better represent the wildly physical nature of the characters they portray within the expanding Disney universe. And a recent addition to the pantheon could change the way that characters move throughout the parks and influence how we think about mobile robots at large.
I wrote recently about the new tack Disney was taking with self-contained characters that felt more flexible, interactive and, well, alive than “static,” pre-programmed animatronics. That has done a lot to add to the convincing nature of what is essentially a very limited robot.
Traditionally, most animatronic figures cannot move from where they sit or stand and are pre-built to exacting show specifications. The design and programming phases of the show are closely related, so that the hero characters are efficient and durable enough to run hundreds of times a day, every day, for years.
The Na’vi Shaman from Pandora: The World of Avatar, at Walt Disney World, represents the state of the art of this kind of figure.
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However, with the expanded universe of Disney properties including more and more dynamic and heroic figures by the year, it makes sense that they’d want to explore ways of making the robots that represent those properties in the parks more believable and active.
That’s where the Stuntronics project comes in. Built out of a research experiment called Stickman, which we covered a few months ago, Stuntronics are autonomous, self-correcting aerial performers that make on-the-go corrections to nail high-flying stunts every time. Basically robotic stuntpeople, hence the name. Continue reading about Disney’s new autonomous robot stunt double.