With Wall-E , Pixar achieved the milestone of creating a friendly and adorable robot that we all remember. Disney has been searching for robots that generate positive emotions for decades, specifically since 1971 with its ‘ Hall of Presidents ‘ attraction at Disney World.
Now the Disney Research team has presented a new robot at the IROS 2023 conference in Detroit. It doesn’t have a name, but it is programmed to try to convey expressions on your face and replicate social interactions.
Those who have played Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order will remind you of BD-1 , a small bipedal droid. The Disney robot is very similar, with a compact body, a pair of antennas and a flattened head that protrudes from the neck and has two flashlights for eyes.
As explained by IEEE , Disney Research has spent the last year trying to develop a computer vision learning system where it creates sufficiently convincing expressions.
Although it was presented in Detroit, the work was developed in Zurich. The robot has been 3D printed and has multiple degrees of freedom of movement . The head can look up, down, around and tilt, while the legs have up to five degrees with which to support, balance and walk on different surfaces, including a forest.
But it is not his ability to move that Disney is looking for. The idea is to try to create small animated robots to interact with the public in amusement parks . A plan that has not yet been finalized, but that its developers are talking about.
“Most roboticists focus on getting their bipedal robots to walk reliably. At Disney, our robots may have to strut, prance, slink, trot, or wander to convey the emotion we need,” explains Morgan Pope . , researcher at Disney Research.
In a context where the figure of the robot is viewed with certain reservation , Disney is trying to develop friendly robots that analyze the environment and whose movements are sensitive enough to generate empathy in people.