In a terrifying new development that proves we are only this much closer to androids and drones ruling us all, Carnegie Mellon University and Disney Research have teamed up to create my latest nightmare: bipedal robots designed to mimic the mannerisms of famous cartoon characters.
You thought an animatronic Chuck E. Cheese was creepy? Just wait until you meet a free-roving, automatonic Mickey Mouse. (And let's be honest -- there is nothing scarier than a robotic anthropomorphic mouse. Nothing.)
Disney Research's senior research scientist Katsu Yamane, team member Joohyung Kim and CMU's Seungmoon Song unveiled their collaborative efforts at the IEEE International Conference on Robotics and Automation (ICRA) on May 26 in Spain. In a press release posted on Disney Research's site, they state the goal of their project is "to bring animation to life in the real world." Ostensibly, this technology will be used to create immersive experiences for visitors to Disney's myriad theme parks, bringing animated characters to life in a way heretofore unrealized. (The downside to this robot takeover would be the possibility of replacing actual human Disney employees - namely, the costumed employees, or "cast members," according to Disney jargon.)
However, turning creepy robo-mice into a reality is a lot more difficult than it appears. As the press release points out, the basic movements of cartoon characters are concocted by artists, not scientists, and therefore don't necessarily adhere to the laws and restraints of physics. Disney Research's solution? To create two distinct set of designs -- one for the upper body and one for the lower, keeping in mind "the kinematic structure of the robot, range of motion, and torque requirements of each joint."
Now excuse me while I cower under my bed and wait for my imminent demise at the hands of a robotic Goofy minion. "Gawrsh!" indeed.