To this day, animation is massively associated with Disney, and the corporation is continually trying to pushback the boundaries of what is possible. Disney has played a major role in the popularisation of 3D animation, and now it is looking to implement robotics at its Disney World locations.
Thus, the next time you see your favorite characters walking around Disney World, they might not be actors inside suits, but could be automated robots, instead. The scientific arm of the Disney corporation has recently made a massive breakthrough which will enable it to bring its animated characters to life in a unique way.
Engineers affiliated with the Disney research department in Pittsburgh were able to create a bipedal, walking robot, which was created in a way similar to 3D animation. Indeed, Disney built on typical 3D animation techniques in order to construct this robotic official intelligence.
Contemporary CGI animation studios are able to create different walks for every single character which appears on screen. Effectively, is this the way that animated characters develop particular traits and personality. Extremely complex animations can be applied to characters in order to give them a distinctive flavour.
This is now being transferred and personified into a walking robot, with researchers at Disney focusing on the physical aspect of 3D animation in order to transmit this to the AI robots. Co-author of the research, Katsu Yamane, stated that 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.
Disney is now working on implementing this on a wider scale, and this could have hugely positive implications for the corporation. Considering all of the huge amount of Frozen toys, for example, that Disney has sold, being able to create interactive robotic versions of these characters are genuinely convincing could be a positive breakthrough for Disney.
Once more this an example of 3D animation opening up new avenues and commercial opportunities for a massive company and industry.