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.
After presenting its technique for cloning the human face in an effort to produce more realistic audio animatronics at SIGGRAPH, Disney Research Zurich has released this video which takes a closer look at the process, which we began discussing on here last month.
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.
Let’s face it, audio animatronic figures are just a passing fad. Sure they look and move in realistic fashions, even so much as being able to appear to walk steps or be able to twirl a lasso, but it all comes at a high cost — literally and figuratively. They’re expensive to design and create, require expensive maintenance and heavy and large platforms and have extremely limited mobility. And that’s coming from one of the leaders in robotic development at Disney Research, Lanny Smoot. Smoot, Imagineer Gary Schnuckle and Timothy Caldwell are the driving forces behind a new patent application which seeks out the next generation of reliable, consistent, automated performances and they just might have found the answer for 2010 in technology whose origins have been traced as far back as 2000 B.C. — marionettes.
The 1313 Club is hosting an event with Ape Pen Publishing on September 18 at the Disneyland Hotel in Anaheim, California. Walt Disney’s Marvelous Mechanized Magic Kingdom will bring together Disney Legends such as Bob Gurr, Alice Davis, Blaine Gibson, Rolly Crump, X Atencio and more alongside actual audio animatronics from Garner Holt Productions.
The event will illustrate Disney’s incredible mechanical achievements by spotlighting attractions, characters, and memorable devices created by the Disney Studios and, later, the MAPO arm of WED Imagineering. Using rare images, video, and authentic props and animatronics, guests will gain insight into the fascinating MAPO division as never before. Disney Legends will shed light on this little known but highly intriguing aspect of Disney history—plus performances by Disneyland entertainers and the World premiere of the world’s most advanced animatronic figure.
ANAHEIM, Calif. (Dec. 18, 2009) — President Abraham Lincoln returns to the Main Street Opera House in Disneyland with stunning new Audio-Animatronics technology that makes this the most lifelike and expressive Lincoln figure yet.
Great Moments with Mr. Lincoln, a beloved Disneyland attraction for nearly 45 years and a historic landmark in the development of Audio-Animatronics technology, reopens Dec. 18 on Main Street, U.S.A. with the new Lincoln figure and an enriched presentation that combines the best elements of the park’s original 1965 show and the most advanced technical enhancements. (The show first opened at the 1964 New York World’s Fair.)
The new Abraham Lincoln figure represents several major milestones for Audio-Animatronics figures. The fully electric head – a first for human Disney Audio-Animatronics figures, which are traditionally hydraulically operated – is based on an all-new sculpt that is more lifelike than in previous versions of the show. With an expanded range of facial movement, Lincoln is more expressive than ever. He can purse his lips, form an “O” with his lips, smile, grimace and use his eyebrows to enhance his emotions.
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: