Excellent balance, animation-like movements, adorable interactions. These are the droids we’re looking for.
The Disney Research and Walt Disney Imagineering Research and Development teams have used cutting-edge technology to bring these conceptual droids to life, imbuing them with emotive movements and social personalities. These bipeds also able to maintain balance in unpredictable environments. The result: truly droid-like characters that engage with visitors in ways that transcend typical robotic interactions. From IEEE Spectrum:
“It’s mostly 3D printed, using modular hardware and actuators that made it quick to design and iterate on, going from concept to what you see in the above video in less than a year. It has a four-degree-of-freedom head (able to look up, down, around, and tilt), as well as five-degree-of-freedom legs with hip joints that allow it to walk while balancing dynamically.”
“’Most roboticists are focused on getting their bipedal robots to reliably walk,’ says Disney research scientist Morgan Pope, who helped present the robot on stage. ‘At Disney, that might not be enough—our robots may have to strut, prance, sneak, trot, or meander to convey the emotion that we need them to.’ Disney has animators who are experts in making characters convey all of those emotions (and more) through movement, as well as roboticists who are experts in building mechanical systems.
This collaboration between animators and engineers means that, through an “adaptable reinforcement-learning framework,” the droids quickly learn to navigate unexpected real world situations, all while maintaining the expressive droid temperaments established in the Star Wars universe—a critical component for realism.
In a groundbreaking one-day playtest at Disneyland’s Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge, Imagineers took a few adorable free-roaming droids for a walk. The team talks more about their work in the video below:
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• Luxo Jr. Pencil Test: Emotional storytelling in wire frames
• Disney Imagineering’s autonomous robot stunt doubles
• Two Atlas robots show off their parkour skills
• Why does a frozen lake sound like a Star Wars blaster?
• Millennium Falcon Meltdown: Find your Force with Star Wars and Headspace