Disney dances into robotics market

30 Apr 2008

Remember all the fuss over Robosapien, ‘The robot that thinks it’s a human’? The makers, Thinkway Toys, have collaborated with Disney to create Wall-e, an advanced robot that is capable of being programmed by its user, unlike RoboSapien who came with 67 set commands.

The iDance Wall-e, which is a dancing boom-box on caterpillar tracks, will be on the market this June to coincide with the release of the Pixar animated film of the same name.

The Wall-e robot will be aimed at encouraging learning and interactivity. Like these other toy robots, it will have sophisticated sensor technology.

A touchscreen remote will let children dictate Wall-e’s movement through simple hand gestures, while sensors allow him to steer his way around obstacles in his path.

He can also recognise human voices and tell when someone enters a room, and like us, he has several emotional states.

This isn’t Disney’s first foray into robotics – the company developed Audio-Animatronics technology in the early Sixties, bringing life-like robots such as Abe Lincoln into theme parks and the world fair.

“We’re excited there is now the ability and technology to bring that experience into people’s homes,” said Chris Heatherly, vice-president of technology and innovation for Disney consumer products.

With robotics, we have a great opportunity to bring our characters to life in a very realistic and new way. If kids can interact, learn and play with our characters and they become an extension of their family, we will have done something that is truly magical.”

By Marie Boran