Disney unveils new tech at SXSW, including tiny Tinker Bell, huge … – USA TODAY

Disney unveiled its next generation of robots at SXSW Friday.
With the head of a bunny and a child-size frame, the robot tumbled out of a box, summersaulted and roller skated during a presentation entitled Creating Happiness: The Art & Science of Disney Parks Storytelling, led by Disney Parks, Experiences and Products Chairman Josh D’Amaro.
“Our characters are all about personality, right?” Disney Imagineer Morgan Pope asked. “Can you imagine what it’s like putting on roller skates for the very first time? It’s awkward. It’s clumsy, certainly terrifying, but ultimately, it’s exhilarating.”
The robot wobbled a bit before gliding across the stage, taking a tumble, getting back up and sitting on Pope’s shoulders like a kid. 
“This is our latest effort in making robots that we think can have an emotional connection with our guests,” fellow Imagineer Tony Dohi said. “We are using high-performance materials and taking advantage of mechanical scaling effects, so she’s dynamic and tough. But we’re also using motion-capture data because we want to make performances that have emotion embedded in them.”
‘That is me’:See how Disney World, Disneyland made ‘it’s a small world’ more inclusive
How can I get the most out of Disneyland?:Pro tips from insiders who know it best
Disney has a storied history with robotics full of personality, like the tiki birds that premiered in Disneyland’s Walt Disney’s Enchanted Tiki Room in 1963 and Walt Disney’s audio-animatronic Abraham Lincoln, which debuted at the 1964/65 World’s Fair and whose successor can be seen at The Disneyland Story presenting Great Moments with Mr. Lincoln.
It’s not clear whether or when the robot unveiled at SXSW might be introduced to parks, but Disney has already started “play testing” a few other “blue-sky” technologies for character greetings, which D’Amaro shared with the audience in Austin, Texas.
One is a tiny Tinker Bell, who appeared in a lantern and responded in real-time to questions about things like if she ever gets jealous of Peter Pan (“not at all”) and why she always wears green (it’s her favorite color). She also reminded D’Amaro about a promise he made her.
“Tiny tacos – and I expect them later,” she said. 
D’Amaro noted the interaction was live and with a live performer, but didn’t reveal much more magic before introducing another guest: a massive Hulk who was also brought to life by a live performer.
“All right, I made it. Ugh, time-jumping is such a drag, am I right?” Hulk joked, towering over presentation attendees. “Oh hey, Josh.”
D’Amaro said he heard Hulk may heading to Avengers Campus in Disneyland Paris, to which Hulk replied, “Yeah, maybe I could work that out. Gotta catch up on my French.”
Eve Chen is a travel reporter for USA TODAY based in Georgia. You can reach her at echen@usatoday.com


Leave a Comment