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Disney teaches a humanoid robot to play catch and juggle balls

24th November 2012

Yet another breakthrough in robotics, this time courtesy of Disney research:



Entertainment robots in theme park environments typically do not allow for physical interaction and contact with guests. However, catching and throwing back objects is one form of physical engagement that still maintains a safe distance between the robot and participants. Using a theme park type animatronic humanoid robot, Disney has developed a test bed for a throwing and catching game scenario.

This machine uses an external camera system (ASUS Xtion PRO LIVE) to locate balls and a Kalman filter to predict ball destination and timing. The robot's hand and joint-space are calibrated to the vision coordinate system using a least-squares technique, such that the hand can be positioned to the predicted location.

Successful catches are thrown back two and a half metres forward to the participant, and missed catches are detected to trigger suitable animations that indicate failure. Human-to-robot partner juggling (three ball cascade pattern, one hand for each partner) is also achieved by speeding up the catching/throwing cycle. Disney tested the throwing and catching system on six participants (one child and five adults, including one elderly), and the juggling system on three skilled jugglers.


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