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Disney’s Robots Can Play Catch With Your Kids, but Will Steal Their Affection

Dear parents. Disney, the company that wants to absorb all childhood happiness, both past and present, is planning to replace you with robots. unsatisfied with the secondary love and attention they receive from controlling your favorite characters and cartoons, Disney means to spend quality time with the world’s children in an attempt to feel what it’s like to have a child of its own. (No, having subsidiaries like ABC and ESPN doesn’t count.) Although the Mom-and-Pop-a-Tron 5000 isn’t ready to hit the street yet, Disney making serious progress. For example, the robotics experts at Disney’s lab in Pittsburgh have created a humanoid robot that can play a game of catch.

When I say “play a game of catch”, I don’t mean it an ultra-efficient robot kind of way. This guy can lob a ball to you and, when you throw it back, can find, register, and catch it. The robot uses a Kinect to sense and track the trajectory of an object thrown directly at it, adjusting so that it can catch it with one hand.

The creepy part? When the robot catches the ball, it looks down at its hand, as if it were tracking the ball if its eyes. If it misses the catch, the robot will react, looking around for the ball or shaking its head in dismay. The robot is very attentive: It has sensors to track and follow the direction of whomever it’s playing with, so it will turn and face its partner if they move out of the way.

This may not seem remarkable at first glance — most of the robots shown on Geekosystem do things better than most people — begging the question; “why would you bother making it?” The answer is, of course, that Disney means to get in on the time-honored American pastime of a catch between father and son.

(Disney Research via PopSci)

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