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Disney's theme park robots learn to play catch, juggle, and react to their mistakes

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Disney robot catch
Disney robot catch

In an attempt to spur direct interaction between its theme park guests and entertainment robots, researchers at Disney have taught (read: programmed) the animatronic cyborgs to play catch. They accomplished this by harnessing information provided by a 3D camera for ball position data and customizing the humanoid robot with a cup-shaped catching hand. Disney then brought in volunteers to play a traditional game of catch with the robot, revealing that it took most participants only a couple tries to get into a throwing rhythm. Speeding up those tosses enabled the robot to participate in three-ball juggling.

The research team also outfitted the robot with head-tracking capabilities and expressions of disappointment for the times it missed a catch. These reactions, which ranged between a robot shaking its head, shrugging its shoulders, or merely looking behind itself for the passed ball, added an even greater humanistic element to the tests, which you can watch below.