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I, for one, welcome Disney’s new cuddly robot overlords.
The conglomerate last week earned a patent for a “soft body robot for physical interaction with humans.”
According to the paperwork, the entertainment giant intends to build a squishy cyborg—which, based on early sketches, looks a lot like Baymax, the inflatable healthcare robot from Disney’s 2014 animated hit Big Hero 6.
Across the globe, visitors to Walt Disney theme parks recognize costumed characters roaming the grounds (Prince Charming once wished me a happy birthday from a float in the Disney World Festival of Fantasy Parade).
But with the advent of new technologies, the poor humans sweating inside those Seven Dwarfs outfits may one day become redundant. After all, why pay a person to dress as Frozen princesses Elsa and Anna when a machine can do the job?
“As robotic systems become cheaper, more reliable, and more capable, their prevalence in our everyday environment continues to increase,” the Disney application said, citing their use in stores and amusement parks, among other settings.
“[We] recognized that there was a need for robots that can safely interact with humans and, particularly with children,” the Burbank-based company said.
Inventors tested their design via small, toy-sized androids with soft, fluid-filled body parts; each module can sense pressure and react accordingly “to provide protection to the child (or other outside actor) and robot during the interaction.”
The exact use and form of these humanoids remain unclear; Disney did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
As the Orlando Sentinel pointed out, Walt Disney World is no stranger to free-roaming robots: The park was home to retired radio-controlled Push the Talking Trash Can and Lucky the Dinosaur, an animatronic Segnosaurus who still meets visitors at Walt Disney Imagineering.
Inventors Katsu Yamane, Joohyung Kim, and Alexander Nicholas Alspach of Pennsylvania filed the patent application in February 2016; the US Patent and Trademark Office awarded the copyright on April 6, 2017.