Disney Parks Patent Humanoid Robot That Could Revolutionize Industry

A “great, big, beautiful tomorrow” could soon be coming to the Disney Parks, with the introduction of a new patent that could revolutionize the way guests interact with their favorite characters.

The US Patent and Trademark Office published a patent filed by Disney Enterprises, Inc. on Thursday for a “soft body robot for physical interaction with humans.”

“This humanoid robot was configured to be soft and robust during playful physical interaction with children,” according to the patent. “This robot's locomotive style and other motions, as well as its physical form and kinematic structure, were modeled after a given animated character (e.g., a character from an animated film or television show).”

All signs point to this being a prototype for a life-size version of the dough-y healthcare companion robot, Baymax, from Big Hero 6. Of course, that’s still speculation, though if Disney is designing a robot especially to sustain the wear and tear of being hugged by children every day, it’s a pretty fair bet they aren’t developing, say, Toy Story’s Emperor Zurg.

The same research team published a paper in November 2015—a year after the release of Big Hero 6—that outlined the robot prototype, complete with a video that highlights the capabilities of a toy-sized version. Check it out and tell us that doesn’t look like Baymax.

It still might be a while before Disney guests actually get to spend any time with any robots—safety is rightfully their main concern here, and researchers are still working on ways to ensure that all of the robot’s movements are “wholly safe” for human interaction.

The patent stresses the need for a soft and/or deformable body, filled with either gas or air to allow for fluid movement. Researchers also utilized 3D printing technology in the making of the toy-sized prototype.

Of course, others have noted that filing a patent doesn’t promise anything right now. But isn’t it fun to think about a friendly hand sanitizer-wielding robot roaming the streets of Tomorrowland?

Featured image: Dolores (Evan Rachel Wood) is a sentient robot in HBO's Westworld. Disney Park's patent is no doubt for a more kid friendly robot. Courtesy HBO.


Hannah Yasharoff

Hannah Yasharoff is a journalism major at the University of Maryland. She was born and raised in the Washington, D.C. area. You can follow her on Twitter: @HannahYasharoff