Earlier this month, members of the media were shown two things that were once deemed impossible during a virtual Disney press event: a “real” working lightsaber, and an autonomous walking animatronic Baby Groot. Now, the latter has been revealed to the public.
As reported by TechCrunch, Groot is just the display of an ongoing effort at Imagineering, titled “Project Kiwi” — a small-scale, free-roaming robotic actor.
This is yet another entry in Disney’s path toward bringing its characters to life through technology in the theme parks, going as far back as the opening of New Fantasyland in 2012 at Walt Disney World’s Magic Kingdom, when a fire-breathing, flying dragon took to the skies above the park.
Other non-mobile entries in this historical path of innovation include the self-piloting Star Wars droid named “J4ke” at D23 Expo 2017, the Shaman of Songs from Na’Vi River Journey at Disney’s Animal Kingdom, Hondo Ohnaka in Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge, and the straight-from-the-screen Belle from Enchanted Tale of Beauty and the Beast at Tokyo Disneyland.
While this version of Project Kiwi looks like Baby Groot, it is possible that the bipedal robot tech could take the form of any child-sized character in the parks — and is also a work-in-progress. Don’t expect to see this little guy roaming around Epcot or Disney California Adventure any time soon. Besides, we haven’t even had a chance to see the Spider-Man stuntronic in action at Avengers Campus yet.
The possibilities of this technology are endless for the Disney Parks; Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge could certainly benefit from walk-around animatronics in the form of aliens like the Ithorian featured in a clip from D23 Expo 2019, or astromech and protocol droids.
One problem that could arise from this tech making its way to the parks is proximity to guests, and the possibility that guests could very well just knock them over. A potential risk of damage would definitely be present, but in the case of Groot, his legs “use a system that offers a kinetic counter-balance,” and can still stay upright if shoved gently or if a hand is rested on his shoulder — giving the robot an extra layer of believability.
You can read the full article from TechCrunch here, and check out Project Kiwi in action in the video below: