From Disney World to Westworld?
In a newly revealed US patent application, Disney Enterprises wants to create a soft-bodied robot that will have physical interactions with humans and, particularly, with children.
Inspired by a small test robot based on the lovable Big Hero 6 character Baymax, Disney inventors’ new bot will have soft and deformable body parts designed to reduce collision impacts during human interaction.
To test the design, researchers developed a 3D-printed, toy-sized robot with a fluid-filled (gas or air) upper body. As per the patent document, each body part was connected to a pressure sensor, and a controller then operated the robot differently when contact was sensed at one or more of these soft-body parts to provide protection to the child.
The filing also suggests that Disney may integrate larger robots into its theme park environments.
“As robotic systems become cheaper, more reliable and more capable, their prevalence in our everyday environment continues to increase,” the document says. “Robots can be found providing interactive guidance or entertainment in stores and amusement parks and in more dynamic settings like homes, schools, hospitals and the workplace where they teach, provide therapy and lend an extra set of hands.”
While the filing provides no time frame for releasing the bots into the world, the application comes as the kidtech industry and advancements in artificial intelligence continue to grow. Last year, Disney third-annual Accelerator program backed Hanson Robotics, which creates human-like robots with a full range of facial expressions. The Hong Kong-based company builds robots for the business and consumer markets, and videos of its Sophia bot have been viewed more than a billion times.