The animatronic humanoid device uses an external camera system to track the movement of the balls and predict destination and timing.
Soon when you visit Disney theme parks, you’ll be able to interact with the robots. Disney Research has created an animatronic humanoid robot that can juggle and play catch with a person. Robots in entertainment environments usually don’t physically interact with people, but catching and throwing back objects is one form of physical engagement that still maintains a safe distance between the robot and participants.
An external camera system and a Kalman filter were used to work out where to throw and catch the balls. Successful catches are thrown back two and a half meters to the participant, and missed catches trigger animations that indicate failure, such as the robot shaking its head, looking at where the ball landed, or shrugging. Gizmag reports that the balls need to be thrown in the general vicinity of the robot’s hand, which is a cup-like shape to enhance its ability to catch.
The robot can juggle three balls with a human partner by speeding up the catching/throwing cycle. The throwing and catching was tested with six participants (one child and ﬁve adults, including one elderly person), and the juggling with three skilled jugglers. You can see the robot in action in the video below: