Disney Creates Robot That Plays Catch

Disney Research have built a robot that plays a scarily humanlike game of catch, tracking the user and the ball with its eyes.  Aimed for use in Disney's theme parks of the future, it can also juggle too.

In an attempt to crush any 'Skynet' fears, the interaction of playing catch with a robot was deliberately chosen as a physical engagement that maintains a safe distance between yourself and the animatronic.  A Microsoft Kinect was used as the eyes of the robot, predicting the destination and timing in a 3D space.  The modified 'cupped' hand reacts, catches the ball, and throws it back to the participant, two and a half metres forward.  Missed catches are reacted to with one of a set of contextual animations such as shaking the head, looking behind, or shrugging its shoulders.

And, with an increase in speed, it has also been possible to conduct human-to-robot partner juggling.  It's a fascinating piece of robotics, and an amazing insight into what's possible with comsumer technology such as the Kinect.

First, juggling balls. Next, grenades.


Jason England