Those Disney Imagineers are able to pull off some pretty incredible things, and their latest feat of magic involves bringing Baby Groot from GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY VOL. 2 to life as a free-walking robot. Known as Project Kiwi, Disney Imagineers have been developing this technology for the past three years, and the result is a fully mobile bipedal character that will be able to walk around parks and interact with guests. It’s important to note that Project Kiwi is still a work in progress and it will likely be a while before these characters are seen in the wild, so to speak, but it’s already quite amazing.
R&D Imagineer Principal Scott LaValley told Tech Crunch that, “Project KIWI started about three years ago to figure out how we can bring our smaller characters to life at their actual scale in authentic ways. It’s an exciting time for bipedal robotics and with an incredible team and our combination of technology, artistry and magic, we are bringing characters to life that could not have happened anywhere but Disney.” Although the version of Project Kiwi seen in the above video takes the form of Baby Groot, the technology can and likely will be used to bring a variety of other Disney characters to life in future.
As I mentioned above, Project Kiwi is still a work in progress, and the team has several more upgrades to make, including “a new set of actuators that can dynamically apply torque plus added sensing capabilities for more stability and reaction to uneven ground or interactions,” which is especially important as kids will likely want to hug the character and you wouldn’t want it suddenly toppling over. The Imagineers are also looking to develop a “sensory package that allows Kiwi to more fully understand the world around it and to identify people and their faces. This becomes important because eye contact is such an emotive and powerful tool to use in transporting a participant.“