Disney Is Creating A 'Huggable' Robot For Children

The new Disney patent says soft-body robots would be "designed for reducing collision impacts during human interaction". "With this in mind, a robot physical and control design was created by the inventors with soft and deformable body parts". The patent says that Disney has already built a small, human-like prototype based on a popular Disney character. Disney has clashed with unions for actors who portray Disney characters at their theme parks, with a 2015 dispute arising from a union representative involving a stipulation that employees can not talk publicly about the characters they portray, and there have been lawsuits that have emerged involving people playing Disney characters.

According to the Orlando-Sentinel, the new patent filing describes and admits to the difficulties and issues with previous robot-human interactions in the carefully-controlled environments of Disney Parks. Disney has experimented with free-roaming, human-free characters before. It very well could mean that Disney is making a Baymax robot for its parks - or that it intends to do so in the future.

Perhaps we could soon see Disney characters including the likes of Wall-E and Big Hero 6's Baymax transformed into interactive droids.

The "humanoid robot" has soft skin and body parts, and is filled with air or gas.

A new patent application from Disney suggests it's something the company has considered. "They do a lot of testing". Links, joints, bearings, and body segments could all be 3D printed, says the patent, while a Stratasys Objet260 Connex multi-material 3D printer has already been used to 3D print a prototype soft robot.

Still, Disney has certainly thought through how exactly these things will be safe. Don Hall actually brought his research to Disney's Imagineers when he was working on Big Hero 6, which is what lead to the company's interest in this technology. Components made with a 3D printer and outer shapes on the robot would include "a donut shape, a cylinder, and a cylinder with a round end". Though there are some references that could be indicative of their thinking, like their forecast that "robots and humans [will] often work in close proximity, where they physically interact with one another". In 2007, an employee playing Tigger was suspended when he punched a 14-year-old during a home video session.

  • Arturo Norris