Disney’s 3D-Printed Expressive Eyes Bring Inanimate Toys To Life [Video]

Disney’s “Papillon” technology 3D-prints fiber optics to create animated eyes for interactive toys.

No matter how endearing, children’s toys always have the slight capacity to be creepy, mainly due to their glass, ever-staring eyes. But Disney Research and Carnegie Mellon have been working closely together on new technology, Papillon, that uses 3D printed optical fibers to create eyes capable of a multitude of expression.

The eyes use Disney’s printed optics technology, and built from a bundle of 3D-printed optical fibers which bend and direct light to the surface of the character’s eye, looking much like a video projection. Cartoons’ eyes tend to be ultra-animated – from dollar signs to express greed and hearts to express love – and Papillon would allow toys to have similar expression.  Eric Brockmeyer, a Disney Research associate working on the project explains:

One of our goals was to create minimal displays, to figure out how much resolution do you really need to express emotion. It turns out you really don’t need that much to convey a compelling interactive experience.

The possibilities of the Papillon eyeballs, and the ability to use interactive pixels in an unusually shaped surface, could led to other uses beyond toy manufacturing. Ivan Poupyrev, a senior research scientist at Disney Research has high hopes for the technology:

Papillon is a technology that is scalable and flexible. We envision it being used for building interactive toys, supplemental characters for videogames, robots or perhaps eventually even human prosthetic eyes.

Check out the Papillon prototype toys in the video below:

Disney Research – Papillon

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