PHOTO: Disney is contemplating some truly astounding robots for its parks. (photo via Flickr/Michael Saechang)
The company that revolutionized audio-animatronics may soon develop technology that will really knock the socks off its guests.
CNN Money directs our attention to an intriguing patent filed by Disney that posits a future wherein soft-skin robots roam its parks. At the very least, that’s what we can glean from the application. Others have noted, however, there is no guarantee that a patent will ever come to fruition.
Among some of the more promising claims in the filing are statements such as “a robot for human interaction” and “a robot that will move and physically interact like an animated character.”
Essentially, the patent describes a robot that would have myriad joints and be able to interact with guests thanks to controllers and parts that are soft to the touch.
Possibly, what Disney has in mind, could be in the form of a functioning Baymax.
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As CNN Money explains, Disney already has a working model, albeit a smaller one that is based on a character not divulged by the patent filing.
Unfortunately, the company isn’t all that chatty on explaining this patent further.
Gizmodo explains that merely filing a patent doesn’t mean we are promised anything in the form of remarkable new innovations walking Disney parks.
This iconic brand does, however, have a history of dazzling the senses with great brushstrokes of whimsy.
D23.com has a wonderful breakdown of Disney’s history of pushing animatronics forward to the delight of its guests.
And, as the blog post explains, it all began with Walt Disney himself finding inspiration from something relatively small: “When Walt Disney found an antique mechanical singing bird in a shop while on vacation in New Orleans, he was intrigued. He reasoned that he and his staff had been doing animation on film for years, but it would be fun to try some three-dimensional animation.”
Now, there are multiple parks replete with slow-moving, fairly lifelike robots that sing, dance and speak throughout the day—an act that continues to entertain the young and the old.
Last September, Atlas Obscura spoke with Garner Holt of Garner Holt Productions – a 40-year-old animatronics company that has made robots for places like Knott’s Berry Farm and Disneyland.
Holt explained that things have come a long way in his world: “[In the past] probably the average was seven to eight functions in a figure, now we have figures that are up to 150 different functions,” says Holt. “We have a figure here, a yeti, that has up to 150 different moves. We have a human character that has 120 different functions.”
Technology is making these characters more lifelike. And it’s not always for amusement parks.
Holt explains animatronics that certainly sounds like something ripped out of HBO’s “Westworld.”
Holt states on robots situated at the Infantry Immersion Trainer at California’s Camp Pendelton: “You can shoot them, and if the bullet hits them in the head or the chest, they’ll double over and fall on the ground. When the group leaves, they’ll stand back up and dust themselves off and be ready to engage again.”
None of this fully explains what we may soon see from Disney or if we will see it at all, but considering Disney’s history as an industry innovator as well as where the state of technology resides, we would wager something pretty special is in the works.