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Disney developing emotive 3D-printed eyes for robots

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papillon disney research
papillon disney research

Disney Research has detailed a new technology that will allow robots to have expressive eyes. Based on the 3D printing tech Disney announced last year, Papillon uses bundles of printed optical fibers to guide light. By hooking the output end of the bundle up to a robot's eye, researchers were able to project an image from the receiving end of the bundle and have it appear at the other end. It's the basic same concept as fiber-based internet, but instead of data the only thing traveling down these optics are the synthesized emotions of cutesy characters.

The benefits of utilizing optical fibers are considerable. First, Papillon allows for uniquely shaped, curved displays to be created at low cost: a manufacturer can produce a piece of plastic and hook the fibers up in whatever configuration it sees fit. Second, as light can be directed with extreme accuracy, there's none of the distortion you'd get with a curved display that uses traditional tech such as like OLED. Viewing angles are essentially as wide as your line of sight.

Disney Research believes Papillon could one day feature in prosthetic eyes

"Papillon is a technology that is scalable and flexible," says Ivan Poupyrev, lead of the interaction team at Disney Research Pittsburgh. "We envision it being used for building interactive toys, supplemental characters for videogames, robots, or perhaps eventually even human prosthetic eyes." As this is just research, there's no timeline for Papillon finding its way into any consumer products.