Disney Research Animatronic Robot Plays Catch and Juggles

What may be an unknown fact for some is that Disney is also involved in robotics. The latest creation of Disney Research is a robot that can juggle or play catch with a human opponent.

The possibility of such robots being seen in Disney movies should not be entirely neglected. However, the goal made public by the company is that of offering some sort of physical interaction between entertainment robots and the public at its theme parks. The animatronic robot developed by Disney Research will do just that, while still assuring a proper distance between him and the theme park guests.

If you wonder how the robot is able to track the colored ball in 3D space and guess its trajectory, the answer is: ASUS Xtion PRO LIVE. This external camera represents the eyes of the robot. After capturing the video, a Kalman filter algorithm is applied for determining the destination and the timing of the ball. The ASUS Xtion PRO LIVE resembles Microsoft’s Kinect, but its dimensions and features make it more adequate for this project than Microsoft’s offering.

As noticed in the picture, the Disney animatronic robot has some bars instead of legs. This part of the body would be useless for it, anyway. The most interesting part of the robot is, of course, its hand, which moves accordingly after calculating the trajectory of the ball. The hand has been modified into a cup-like shape so that the ball can be caught easier.

The last image depicts the robot playing catch with a human partner. It should be noted that the robot does not track only the colored ball, but also the head of the opponent, and that as a reference point. Other than that, as long as the ball is thrown close to the robot’s hand, it will surely catch it. The developers of this robot also managed to increase the speed at which the balls are caught and thrown, so that the robot actually juggles with a human opponent.

Disney’s animatronic robot throws back the ball at a height of 2.5 meters. In case you thought this is it, you are very wrong. The robot will not always catch the ball, especially if it is not thrown in the vicinity of his hand. Should this happen, he is programmed to utilize one of four possible animations. It will shrug its shoulders, look behind, look down or shake its head. Now, if you can look at this robot’s head and not think of a troll face that is quite popular on the Web, you are very brave, as I couldn’t.

As in the case of many other geeky YouTube videos, the comments on the above clip turned out to be really hilarious. For example, one YouTube user stated “Terminator 10% completed…”, but such comments are typical for most videos featuring androids, as Skynet and the rise of the machines are constant fears in the minds of some people. Another user suggested placing two such robots in front of each other for endless juggling fun.

If you liked this post, please check the Donald Duck Transformer toy and the Bandai Disney super robot.