The Research and Development (R&D) labs of American entertainment conglomerate Disney does some extremely impressive things with robots.
The team, commonly known as its Imagineering team, has just raised the bar again by creating a fully-functioning, mobile Groot robot for Disney park guests to encounter during their visit. The Imagineering team has been on an endeavor, named Project Kiwi, that aims to build small-scale and free-roaming robotic characters from various Disney film properties and Groot, everyone’s favorite space tree from Guardians of the Galaxy, is one of the first robots to come out of this project.
The toddler-sized robot is a feat of engineering. With rendered textures on the body, accurate costuming, ability to make eye contact with guests, and a perfect recreation of Groot’s ambling and personality, the small figure feels like a living and breathing being. The robot has only a single cable to deliver live instructions, as well as a 45-minute battery life and built-in speakers for interactions with nearby humans.
“Project Kiwi started about three years ago to figure out how we can bring our smaller characters to life at their actual scale in authentic ways. It’s an exciting time for bipedal robotics and with an incredible team and our combination of technology, artistry and magic, we are bringing characters to life that could not have happened anywhere but Disney.”
This seems to have been a dream of Disney Imagineers for a long time. One visit to a Disney park makes clear how important animatronics are to the fully immersive experience Imagineers are trying to provide. Until now, most of these animatronics have been stationary or limited in some capacity.
This news is especially exciting after Disneyland announced its April 30 reopening. Although there is no timetable for when guests can expect to encounter Groot or other Project Kiwi creations during their Disney park visits, what Project Kiwi has managed to do is spectacular.