Disney never leaves any chance to fascinate us. From their first interacting robots in the 1960s (e.g. Audio-Animatronics) to their present robots that we encounter in most of their theme parks. Disney has been working rigorously in their robotics department for more than 50 years now. How far they have gone? Let me give you a gist of it through this post.
Gone are the days when robots, in Disney’s theme parks, were only supposed to speak (generally a pre-recorded speech or song), or move their head, or may even sit or stand at a fixed supporting structure. Now with Disney’s recent patented technology, a robot will not only be able to walk like a human but will be able to perform acrobatics or stunts, perhaps, better than most of us. This technology might make a stuntman feel more insecure about his job.
Disney’s robot includes an inertia shifting assembly (within their body) which allows the robot to control their rate of spin while performing acrobatics (such as summersaults) through the air. The inertia shifting assembly includes sensors and a drive mechanism. The sensors are used to sense useful parameters such as distance from the ground, an angle of orientation of the robot etc. Then, such useful parameters are processed by a processor to calculate the right point of time and/or distance to operate the drive mechanism. Correspondingly, the drive mechanism includes two weights that can be moved in order to shift the robot’s inertia so as to modify the spin rate.
For example, in order to slow down the rotation of the robot, the two weights of the drive mechanism are pushed away from each other (through springs as shown in figure 2) which slows the rotation in a manner similar to a spinning ice skater who extends their arms to reduce their rotation speed. Similarly, in order to increase the rotation, the two weights are pushed towards each other (through servos 540 as shown in figure 2) which increases the rotation in a manner similar to the spinning ice skater who shrinks their arms to increase their spin.
These robots are also capable of performing complex acrobatics. Now, it won’t be a shock for you when you’ll encounter robots performing summersaults in front of you during your next visit to Disney land.
Publication Number: US20190022858A1
Patent Title: Robot with inertia shifting assembly providing spin control during flight
Publication date: 2019-01-24
Filing date: 2017-09-29
Inventors: Gunter D. Niemeyer, Morgan T. Pope
Assignee: Disney Enterprises Inc