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Disney unveils skinless robot with human facial movements

disney research robot gaze

Disney Research has unveiled a skinless robot that can imitate human facial movements, or ‘lifelike gaze’, as part of its paper titled ‘Realistic and Interactive Robot Gaze’.

Disney Research has created a system that perceives and identifies people in the environment, before choosing an appropriate gaze behaviour and executing precise motions.

The humanoid animatronic bust can mimic motor and attention behaviours, including attention habituation, saccades, and differences in motion bandwidth for actuators.

The robot features a layering of simple motor movements to create increasingly complex behaviours, which can realistically react to stimuli in the environment.

The system results in an interactive human-robot experience featuring human-like gaze behaviours in the humanoid animatronic bust, which has a sensor in its chest.

Robot can execute precise facial motions

The robot was developed by engineers at Disney Research, Walt Disney Imagineering and robotics researchers from the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign and the California Institute of Technology.

Disney Research explained in its paper ‘Realistic and Interactive Robot Gaze‘: “Gaze has been shown to be a key social signal, shaping perceptions of interaction partners.

“For example, people who make more eye contact with us are perceived to be similar to us, as well as more intelligent, conscientious, sincere, and trustworthy.

“Furthermore, gaze appears to also convey complex social and emotional states,” it adds.

System may be used at Disney theme parks

“Given the importance of gaze in social interactions as well as its ability to communicate states and shape perceptions, it is apparent that gaze can function as a significant tool for an interactive robot character.

“Thus, the aim of this work is to develop a system to emulate human-like mutual gaze.”

Disney will potentially use this technology for animatronic characters at its theme parks in Florida, California, France, Hong Kong, Tokyo and Shanghai.

Disney Imagineers have also created an animatronic Spider-Man, who will soon be swinging above the rooftops of Avengers Campus at Disney California Adventure.

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Bea Mitchell

Bea is a journalist specialising in entertainment, attractions and tech with 10 years' experience. She has written and edited for publications including CNET, BuzzFeed, Digital Spy, Evening Standard and BBC. Bea graduated from King's College London and has an MA in journalism.

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