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Disney’s Star Wars droid-lookalike robot plays catch, could let dads stay on couch

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.

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=83eGcht7IiI&w=650&h=366]

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.

Author | Stephan Lourens

Stephan Lourens
Born 20 years too early. Curses sometimes. Thinks too much. Believes plug-and-play is the best invention ever. If asked what he wants for his birthday he will say a gadget, then money. So he can go buy a gadget. More

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