Disney creates humanoid robot stunt double

The Stuntronics robot performs backflips and flies through the air like a superhero

Anthony Cuthbertson
Friday 29 June 2018 11:45 BST
The stuntronics robot comes out of Disney's Imagineering Research and Development department
The stuntronics robot comes out of Disney's Imagineering Research and Development department (Walt Disney Imagineering Research and Development)

The robotics program at Disney has taken a giant, back-flipping leap forward with the unveiling of a humanoid robot capable of performing stunts just like a human.

A video of the Stuntronics robot shows the autonomous machine launching into the air from a swing and performing several flips, before landing in a net.

The unveiling of the acrobatic robot comes just one month after Disney revealed its much more rudimental Stickman robot.

Both robots come out of Disney's Imagineering Research and Development department, which was set up a decade ago to explore virtual reality, robotics and other emerging technologies.

The Stickman robot was the first step towards creating the human-scale robot, capable of performing backflips and other stunts. The first job for the stunt robot is likely to be as a mid-show attraction at Disneyland and its sister parks.

A research paper detailing the Stickman explained the reasoning behind developing stunt robots, stating: "Human performers have developed impressive acrobatic techniques over thousands of years of practising gymnastic arts.

"At the same time, robots have started to become more mobile and autonomous and can begin to imitate these stunts in dramatic and informative ways."

Like the Stickman robot, the latest version uses an accelerometer, gyroscope and an array of lasers to perform the stunts. The video, published by TechCrunch, shows how the Stuntronics robot can even strike superhero poses in mid air.

"What this is about is the realisation we came to after seeing where our characters are going on screen – whether they be Star Wars characters, or Pixar characters, or Marvel characters or our own animation characters – is that they're doing all these things that are really, really active," Tony Dohi, an associate research scientist at Disney, told the publication.

"And so that becomes the expectation our park guests have that our characters are doing all these things on screen – but when it comes to our attractions, what are our animatronic figures doing? We realised we have kind of a disconnect here."

Disney is yet to reveal when guests might expect to see the robots perform at its theme parks.

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