A look at Disney's autonomous robot stunt doubles that can perform lifelike aerial movements

It may come as a surprise, but Disney has been producing animated films for almost a century. Walt Disney started created films in the early 1920s, with many of the classics, such as Bambi, Dumbo, Fantasia, and more, being released during the 1940s and 50s. Eventually, Walt Disney would build his own theme park and while things have advanced quite a bit since the first day the park opened, it still uses Audio-Animatronics to this day.

If unfamiliar, animatronics are stationary robotic characters that can perform a variety of different actions and sounds. They are used quite a bit in Walt Disney parks to bring animated characters to life. These look good, but when applied to something a bit more human, the movement just doesn't quite look as realistic as one would hope. As you might expect from a company like Disney, as it continuously evolves its attractions, it has also worked to evolve the technology that powers them.

The Stuntronics project originally started as a research experiment called Stickman. Stuntronics are different from standard animatronics in that they are autonomous aerial performers that self-correct while in flight. This allows them to nail dangerous stunts properly each time. Regarding the development of Stuntronics, Tony Dohi, who is the Principal R&D Imagineer, stated that:

“So what this is about is the realization we came to after seeing where our characters are going on screen, whether they be Star Wars characters, or Pixar characters, or Marvel characters or our own animation characters, is that they’re doing all these things that are really, really active. And so that becomes the expectation our park guests have that our characters are doing all these things on screen — but when it comes to our attractions, what are our animatronic figures doing? We realized we have kind of a disconnect here.”

So it only made sense to try and recreate what was being seen in some of Disney's projects, but to have it performed by a robotic stunt double. As you can see from the clip above, they succeeded. The robot features quite a bit of hardware, utilizing an accelerometer and gyroscope, to make things look as fluid as possible.

While this is not being put to use for a public audience, there is the possibility that something like this could be used for in the production of a movie or on a stage show, providing maximum effect with minimal risk. Regardless, it is quite impressive.

Source: TechCrunch

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