Disneyland droids

From a flying Spider-Man to highly stylized cartoon characters brought to life, Disney has always been at the forefront when it comes to audio-animatronic technology in theme parks.

Last week Disney Imagineers debuted an exciting new concept for future audio-animatronics, and then surprised guests by testing it out at Disneyland for one day only earlier this week! 

Disney introduces new technology at robotics conference

Last week at the International Conference on Intelligent Robots and Systems in Detroit, Disney unveiled a new, bipedal robot that can walk independently and unassisted. In a presentation, Disney revealed that this special new animatronic can walk over difficult terrain and remain balanced, and is able to even stay upright even when pushed. 

The animatronic was developed by a team from Disney Research in Zurich. Disney research scientist Morgan Pope said during the event that it simply wasn't enough for the robots to simply walk as they "may have to strut, prance, sneak, trot, or meander to convey the emotion that we need them to." You can check out the presentation at the event in the video above. 

Testing units are now walking around Star Wars: Galaxy's Edge in Disneyland

@disneyparks Replying to @Meg How do we sign up for droid training 🥹 #Disney #DisneyParks #StarWarsGalaxysEdge #StarWars #Disneyland #Droids #Imagineers #STEM #Technology ♬ original sound - Disney Parks

In a surprising move, shortly after the conference concluded Disney surprised guests at Disneyland with an unannounced test of this new technology at Star Wars: Galaxy's Edge as small BD droids (as seen in Disney+ series "The Mandalorian") walked around the land accompanied by Imagineers, showing off their ability to walk around the land, move their heads around, dance, and more. Guests who were lucky enough to see these "droids in training" could take pictures, but weren't able to interact directly with the robots. 

“As we often do, our R&D Imagineers are testing one of their latest robotics characters, and today we are excited to be doing this with guests in Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge at Disneyland Park,” Disneyland said in a statement shared by journalist Scott Gustin on Twitter.

As of right now, there don't seem to be any plans to make this a permanent experience at Disneyland, and unfortunately, Walt Disney World Star Wars fans are out of luck, as this test doesn't look like it will be coming to the East Coast any time soon. 

What could the future hold for this technology?

Image: Disney

Right now, this exciting new robot technology is still very much under development for use in theme parks, and isn't expected to be used anytime soon beyond initial testing. However, in the future, this robot technology could be used to power non-human meet and greets, as characters can move around, talk and pose on their own while someone operates them remotely. This new technology could also be used in theme park rides, where they could have a larger range of movement in show scenes, only needing to be tethered to a power source in order to continue running. 

 While nothing has been announced yet, the proof of concept at Disneyland was certainly exciting, and we can't wait to see what the future holds for this new technology! 


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