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Disney reveals rollerblading robot that could be coming to its theme parks

Over the past few years, the company’s Imagineers, the creative folks responsible for bringing new attractions to life, have been tinkering away on cutting-edge droids for a new generation of kids raised on video games and TikTok.

Now, Disney has unveiled a prototype of its latest robotic creation: a two-legged bot that can rollerblade, albeit haphazardly.

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In a demo at the SXSW media festival, the robot with the head of a bunny and a child-sized frame fell out of a box, briefly roller skated, and then did a forward roll.

The tumble was part of the trick. According to Imagineer Tony Dibani, the droid is Disney’s “latest effort in making robots that we think can have an emotional connection with our guests”.

Fellow Imagineer Tony Diho, who was responsible for the backflipping Spider-Man robot at Disney’s Avengers Campus, elaborated on the company’s strategy. “Can we make an audience actually feel anxious for our little robot here if we ask her to premiere her big stunt in front of this huge… crowd?” he explained.

Disney is incorporating motion-capture data so that robot “performances” can have “emotion embedded in them”, the Imagineers added. To bring its latest machines to life, the company even poached a robotics expert from Boston Dynamics, Scott LaValley, who helped build an early version of the Atlas running and jumping robot.

While the roller-bot currently does not have a name, some onlookers compared it to Judy Hopps, the rabbit from Disney’s Oscar-winning 2016 animated movie, Zootopia (titled Zootropolis in the UK). Notably, Disney is set to open a land based on the smash-hit cartoon at its Shanghai Disneyland resort in China later this year.


Could the roller-bot make an appearance at the new attraction? Disney is keeping mum on the matter. The Imagineers referred to the robot, and the other technologies they unveiled at SXSW, including a Tinker Bill hologram that responded to questions, as blue-sky projects. That typically means that the target for a project is currently vague or unfixed, and it is being undertaken simply for the sake of learning.

While that may seem disappointing, it’s also how the Spider-Man stunt robot started life. Initially, the droid was just a research project without a clear objective. After three years of development, it appeared at the Disney California Adventure in Anaheim, California, as part of the Web Slingers: A Spider-Man Adventure ride, and later came to Disneyland Paris.

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