Whether inspired by its recent acquisition of Lucasfilm or not, Disney Research is developing a robot that can play catch, juggle and interact with human counterparts. Using a theme park-type animatronic humanoid robot that looks eerily like the droids from Star Wars, Disney has developed the robot to the point where it can play catch with a human.
Many robots have the ability to juggle, and theme park robots are typically just a viewer attraction at the moment, but in future we could see them physically interact with guests, giving the idea that I, Robot was not just another blockbuster, and probably making a few fathers sit up and shake in their boots. Or smile.
A depth-aware motion camera, and obviously some very intricate mathematics which we are not going to bore you with, calculate and predict the motion and location of coloured balls thrown by a human. The robot catches them and will throw the ball back up to a distance of about 2.5 metres. Even missed catches are programmed to show signs of failure, with a shaking of the head, looking behind, looking down, or a shrug of the shoulders. The robot’s hand is slightly modified into a cup like shape to assist with catching a ball.