Disney Research Pittsburgh has just released the video below which demonstrates one of its latest projects: an audio animatronic robot that can interact with people by playing catch with them. The system uses an off-the-shelf Microsoft Kinect (according to the video’s narration) along with an external camera system (ASUS Xtion PRO LIVE) to locate balls and a Kalman ?lter to predict ball destination and timing. So not only is the robot able to track a human’s position and size by the location of their head, but it can attempt to move its hand to catch the ball. If the robot misses the catch, it’s fully aware and even responds with one of several different humorous animations to elicit a response from the person interacting with it.
In this day and age in which 3D scans of human faces are turned into exciting keepsakes such as the Disney/LucasFilm Star Wars Weekends experience ‘Carbon Freeze Me,’ in which guests could receive a replica of themselves frozen in carbonite a la Han Solo, and the upcoming ‘I Am A Princess,’ which builds on a previous test in which guests could have a princess doll in their likeness made, technology is becoming a key player in what has been even the most traditional of trades.
For five days at Epcot in 1999 and for an equally short time in Castaway Cay, guests from around the world had the chance to meet with one of the largest accomplishments in audio animatronic technology: the DRU-1 (Dolphin Robotics Unit). Created by Edge Innovations in partnership with Walt Disney Imagineering, DRU-1 wowed the crowds but was ultimately decided to not have the potential of being an every-day attraction in the theme parks.
Here’s a video of DRU-1 in action courtesy of his WDI show producer: