Humans have mastered acrobatics for centuries, but now they might have some competition thanks to the creative minds at Disney Research.
Disney Unveils Human-Sized Robot That Can Do Somersaults
The folks at Disney Research have been working on robots that can perform stunts and acrobatics, the company revealed at the 2018 International Conference on Robotics and Automation on Tuesday, May 22 in Brisbane, Australia.
At the event, the research company introduced the world to a human-sized robot called Stickman, because it's literally just a z-shaped robotic stick. The headless machine is capable of performing aerial stunts and acrobatic tricks that would put humans to shame.
To demonstrate this, Disney researchers also released a video showing Stickman, which the company claims is approximately the height of a human stunt performer, pulling off an impressive mid-air backflip.
Much like a human, the robot swings form a ceiling-mounted wire, tucks itself into a ball and folds to executes the aerial stunt before landing on the padding below. Watch the video below:
How Does It Work?
In a paper, titled, "Towards a Human Scale Acrobatic Robotic," the researchers noted that Stickman has two degrees of freedom and a gravity-driven pendulum, which it uses to propel itself into the air after swinging from the rope.
The team also used laser rangefinders and an inertial measurement unit, which uses a combination of accelerometers and gyroscopes, allowing the robot to gauge its position and make adjustments as necessary.
"Stickman emulates the behavior of human performers using a very limited set of sensing and actuation capabilities," the team said. "It is able to successfully perform several different somersaulting stunts by changing initial orientation and the timing of tuck, release, and untuck."
Other Projects Involving Robots That Mimic Human Movement
This isn't the first time Disney has invented a robot that can imitate humans. In 2016, Disney Research created a remotely controlled robot that could move and perform tasks like a human, such as threading a sewing needle or carefully picking up an egg without breaking it.
Disney's backflipping robot is not the first of its kind. Last November, Boston Dynamics also unveiled a humanoid robot that could not only perform a successful backflip but could also stick the landing. The engineering and robotics design company also created the SpotMini, which can climb stairs and open doors like its fleshy counterparts, and will be available for purchase in 2019.