Engineers and magic-makers at Disney Research Pittsburgh are having an animated time with their latest work. A new video unveiled recently showcases an Animatronic figure that attempts to walk in the stylized manner of an animated character. The progress so far is promising and truly showing some character.

But which character is it exactly? And for what purpose is it being developed? Time will only tell but the prototype figures in the research video bear a striking physical resemblance to everyone’s favorite stuffed Pooh bear.

But don’t let tests fool you, Disney has often done public play tests with completely un-related themes as research for upcoming project research. In 2010 Disney conducted several play tests inside Disneyland for the Living Character initiative testing Destini the robot fortune teller, a test believed to have been for a living Lumiere candlestick character.

The ultimate goal of the research study is to bring animation characters to life in the real world with bipedal robot that look like and walk like animated characters. Bringing realistic figures to life (such as Abraham Lincoln) is a challenge in and of itself but to then realize animated characters that exist in a world that is free of life’s physical limitations, it can be come a challenge.

Many visual cheats are employed in bringing animated characters to life. Whether it’s the squash and stretch effect that gives characters more rounded organic life or the stylized walking of different characters, realizing animated characters in the real world presents real challenges.

In Disney Research Pittsburg’s own words, they “start from animation data of a character walking. We develop a bipedal robot which corresponds to lower part of the character following its kinematic structure. The links are 3D printed and the joints are actuated by servo motors. Using trajectory optimization, we generate an open-loop walking trajectory that mimics the character’s walking motion by modifying the motion such that the Zero Moment Point stays in the contact convex hull. The walking is tested on the developed hardware system.”

For what purpose do you think this research is being done? Where would you like to see it used? Let us know in the comments below!