Skip to main content

Disney's human-controlled robots could replace its theme park mascots

The future of Disney's animatronics is uncannily bright

"Disney magic" tends to refer more to the company's films and attractions than robotics, but it's genuinely hard to not be amazed - if not a little weirded-out - watching its latest machine move with such accuracy that it could audition for Wall-E 2.

Disney's Hybrid Hydrostatic Transmission and Human Safe Haptic Telepresence Robot - which we're just going to call "Jimmy" as per the nametag worn by the bot - uses a transmission made of both sturdy water lines and agile air lines for smooth, measured movements, doing away with the stiff gestures made famous by the namesake dance move, "The Robot."

Manned by a headset-clad operator with controllers that look like they came from a miniaturized version of Pacific Rim, Jimmy can replicate actions as rhythmic as drumming, delicate as threading a needle, precise as handling an egg, and kid-friendly as playing patty cake.

We imagine Disney won't be stumped finding uses for Jimmy, especially when it comes building to mascots for its theme parks that would normally be impossible to squeeze a human inside.

Imagine proportionally-accurate "Human Safe" recreations of Stitch from Lilo & Stitch or Mike Wazowski from Monsters, Inc. that interacts directly with guests. What could possibli go wrong?