Disney is known for its digital animations, but the company’s research group is working on creations in the flesh, specifically robots designed to mimic humans. The Disney Research group, tasked with pushing the innovation and science behind the magic of the company, has created a telepresence robot that can mimic humans so well it can thread a needle.
A stereo camera on the robot provides the operator with footage through a VR headset. The robot’s movements are transmitted by hand using a controller the operator can grasp, and as the operator moves the controller, the robot moves accordingly providing haptic feedback to the operator.
The real magic behind Disney’s new robot is the merging of hydraulic and pneumatic actuators. As stated in a research paper, the two types of actuators work together to create fluid, rotational movement. It’s not as rigid and robotic but more natural and robotic.
This version is just a start, but it’s amazingly precise to begin with. Picking up objects and threading-needles are made feasible through the transmission of operator and robot. Limitations to this design require the operator to be close to the robot as hydraulic and pneumatic cables need be connected. Nonetheless, Disney will find a way to sneak the technology into its theme parks, bringing characters to life in a weird, human-robot way that leave park guests in awe.