Robotics has come a long way in getting to where it is now. From the moving Gundam in Japan to the self-transforming Optimus Prime toy, it seems that the possibilities of making pop culture characters come to life is starting in this decade.
Surprisingly, Disney has also been busy doing its own project, building a two and a half feet robotic Baby Groot from the Marvel movie "Guardians of the Galaxy" and making it come to life with its Project Kiwi.
Robotic Baby Groot From Disney's Imagineering Team
This Disney Robot is made possible by the Disney Imagineering team, who started the Project Kiwi three years ago. The team's mission was to create a completely mobile, bipedal robot with the exact customization of Baby Groot from the movie. In a lengthy report from Tech Crunch, the publication had a sneak peek at what the Baby Groot Robot can do.
Project Kiwi did catch the rendered textures on robot Baby Groot's face, hands, and feet. It was also dressed in the red jumpsuit from the film. The eyes are also said to so expressive that it may be the actual character from the movies brought to life with its non-robotic walks and gestures, expressions, and more.
The publication had the privilege to talk with Project Kiwi's R&D Imagineer Principal Scott LaValley and the Advanced Development Studio Executive SVP Jon Snoddy on how the team built the Baby Groot Robot. According to LaValley, they decided to bring characters to life that could not have happened anywhere but Disney.
Disney contacted LaValley first from Boston Dynamics, where he worked on the initial version of its biped robot Atlas.
The goal for Project Kiwi was to build a robot that could interact with Disney Theme Park guests, along with emotes and gestures with a battery-powered cell to last for long hours of operation. With that said, the team had built the robot for three years, starting with its skeleton system to put the parts, motors, actuator and batteries for its walking functionality.
Many prototypes were built to make this Disney robot possible. Project Kiwi stated that it still has a long way to go before the robot will be released into Disney parks. Snoddy noted that their goal is to make more beloved Disney characters live with robotics and have a living, breathing home for the characters--rather than the tightly controlled environments of the rides themselves.
According to Comicbook, using Baby Groot as the first bipedal robot for Project Kiwi fits Disney's park theme. The character is also perfect for the job as in the movies, he does not have any crazy movements and has always expressed his emotions by facial expressions.
It is sad to say that the Baby Groot Robot from Disney is still in production, and park-goers will not have a chance of seeing the robot in action until COVID-19 is still at large. But in the meantime, Project Kiwi will make improvements in making its bipedal robot a more interacting machine for visitors soon.