Disney’s latest robot will bring Groot and other characters to life

Move over Spot, there’s a new adorable robot in town, and this one may one day convince you, or more likely your kid, that their favorite Disney character is real. In a lengthy new piece, TechCrunch has detailed Project Kiwi, an in-development robotics platform from the company’s Imagineering research and development studio. The result of now more than three years of work, it’s a small robot that can move and act on its own and take the form of many different characters — including, as you can see, Baby Groot. 

With Project Kiki, Imagineering set out to create a robotic actor that could one day interact with Disney theme parks guests and make them feel like they’re face-to-face with their favorite characters. When the team started work on the project, there weren’t any robots up to that task, so they began making their own. The majority of Project Kiwi’s components are custom-made, and it includes some clever design features. For instance, it has a hollow skeleton that allows circulating air to cool its motors and actuators.

While the robot looks like a breakthrough in many ways, don’t expect to see it at a Disney park anytime soon. Imagineering told TechCrunch it still has a lot of work to do before Project Kiwi leaves the lab. One upcoming area of focus is a new set of actuators that will make the robot better equipped to handle sudden interactions, such as a kid running up to hug it, that could topple it over. The team is also working on a new sensor suite that will allow Kiwi to better understand the world and identify human faces. Battery life is another area where the robot could do better. The current model can go about 45 minutes on a single charge. All of that to say, you can safely wait to plan that next trip to Disney World.   

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