In the future, when you see your favorite characters walking around Disney World, they might not be actors inside thick, stuffy character suits, but could be automated robots, instead. The scientific arm of Disney has just created a new method of bringing its animated characters to life. A team of engineers from Disney Research in Pittsburgh and the Robotics Institute of Carnegie Mellon University have developed a bipedal, walking robot that moves just like specified 3D animation.
The CGI animation studios of today can create a different walk for every character. It seems as though every aspect of a character’s movement gives it more personality. Now, those same, unique movements can be transferred personified in a walking robot.
Co-author on the published research paper, Katsu Yamane said the researchers focused on the robot’s saunter because, “walking is where physics matter the most. If we can find a way to make the lower half work, we can use the exact same procedure for the upper body.
Recreating the animated walk wasn’t without its difficulties. Among the problems encountered, were physical constraints of the robotic legs. The team had to design the legs to fit within the 3D-animated character’s form. Additionally, the engineers had to make compromises when it came to creating the ankles. Each animated ankle had nine degrees of freedom which couldn’t be re-created physically without the robot falling down, so the same motion was achieved by adding additional motion in the hips and knees.
The applications for this are huge. Think of all of the Frozen toys that Disney has sold. Imagine if they could create an interactive robotic version of Olaf that could bob and bound just like the character. Keep in mind that Disney is now the proud owner of almost all things Star Wars. With so many new characters soon to enter the toy market from The Force Awakens , Disney could be gearing up to unleash something even cooler than the roly poly BB8.