Robotics

Look, up in the sky! It's Disney's new autonomous acrobatic robot

Look, up in the sky! It's Disn...
The new Stuntronics robot from Disney Research can perform autonomous acrobatics in midair before sticking the landing
The new Stuntronics robot from Disney Research can perform autonomous acrobatics in midair before sticking the landing
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The new Stuntronics robot from Disney Research can perform autonomous acrobatics in midair before sticking the landing
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The new Stuntronics robot from Disney Research can perform autonomous acrobatics in midair before sticking the landing

Disney's animatronics are coming a long way from drunken pirates waving flagons of ale or hippos that wiggle their ears. In the (relatively) near future, robotic versions of Iron Man or Buzz Lightyear could be performing autonomous acrobatics overhead in Disney theme parks, thanks to the newly-unveiled Stuntronics robot.

Animatronic characters have populated Disney parks for more than half a century, albeit often just looping a specific movement over and over. In recent years Disney Research has tried to make the robots more agile and interactive, developing versions that can grab objects more naturally, and even juggle and play catch with visitors.

Back in May the company unveiled a prototype called Stickman. Basically a mechanical stick with two degrees of freedom, the robot could be flicked into the air like a trapeze artist, where it used a suite of sensors to tuck and roll in midair, perform a couple of backflips, and unfurl for landing.

Disney Imagineering has created autonomous robot stunt doubles

Impressive as that is, Stickman was far more stick than man. In just a few short months, the project has evolved into Stuntronics, a robot that's noticeably more human. Designed to be a kind of robotic stunt double for a human actor, the Stuntronics robot can perform the same kind of autonomous aerial stunts thanks to a similar load of sensors as Stickman, including an accelerometer, gyroscope array and laser range finding.

But unlike Stickman, Stuntronics can stick its landing too. The former bot tended to land flat on its back, but the new version can land feet-first, and hit what looks like a smaller target. Not only that, it can strike a heroic pose in the air, before tucking back up ready for landing.

Speaking to TechCrunch, Disney Research scientists said that during a stage show or ride, other animatronics or human actors could perform the up-close, static scenes, before the Stuntronics robot is wheeled out when the character needs to fly (or fall with style).

Of course, there's no guarantee that this kind of thing will ever get off the ground (literally or figuratively), but it's always exciting to peek behind the curtain at Disneyland.

Source: Disney via TechCrunch

7 comments
toyhouse
When I first saw the article before reading it through, I thought I was seeing a flying robot. Then quickly realized that the title clearly says, "acrobatic",. But the flying pose and the incorrect thought had me wondering - how much better, a flying hero-bot might be than acrobatics alone. Built of lightweight material and small drone props strategically hidden. And sound effects with smoke to cover over the whirring sound with added drama. Too late. Sigh.....like everything else I dream up, it's been done. https://odditymall.com/remote-control-flying-human
f8lee
Oh great - now Hollywood stuntmen will be among those to be replaced by technology!
Douglas Bennett Rogers
The robot could launch itself with motorized windup springs.
Colt12
Disney should have potential to create some awesome robotics. They have been in the game for a long time and usually don't hold back on technology.
Nostromo47
Wasn't that the flying Tony Stark, Iron Man, flying through the air?
bullfrog84
That's falling, with style.
Ichabod Ebenezer
I watched the tail end of that video at 1/4 speed, and that robot landed on its face. I was pretty excited right up until that part...