Robot Stunt Performers With Acrobatic Skills in the Works


                                                                                                 A robot running / Photo by Getty Images


Robots have been introduced in numerous industries such as the courier service, housecleaning, and maintenance. But Walt Disney is making a leap with the introduction of Stickman, an autonomous robot with the potential to become a stunt double.

For at least 50 years, Disneyland parks have shown improved technical prowess like pneumatics and hydraulics. The use of machines has been increasing in these parks to portray characters in the Disney Universe. Now, Disney Research is heading towards a human-sized acrobatic robot to become synthetic stunt doubles in films.

Stickman has a simple two degrees of freedom and a gravity-driven pendulum launch to perform different samples of somersaulting stunts. The research team composed of six members described that the robot has three aluminum links connected by hinges that enable it to transition between a Z-shaped form and a straight line.

In a straight line, Stickman has a height of about 2.1 meters or 6.8 feet, equivalent to stunt performers with their arms raised above their head. The robot can sense its activity using an inertial motion sensor and laser rangefinders. Inertial motion sensors are usually composed of accelerometers, gyroscopes, and magnetic sensors, while laser rangefinders assess distance to an object. Both of these hardware components are employed for device control, navigation, and tracking in the same fashion as drones and autonomous robots.

“By raising the robot nearly to the ceiling, we are able to inject significant energy into the launch. The long swing spreads out this acceleration over a large distance, making for relatively gentle accelerations. Stickman releases from the ceiling and the pendulum using two servo-driven quick release latches,” researchers explained.

In a demonstration, the researchers showed that the robot can jump with a distance between 5 to 11 meters while doing impressive backflips. The hardware parts and the autonomous system allowed it to mimic some movements of human acrobatic performers. For now, Stickman will remain inside research and development grounds until it can successfully perform more challenging acrobatic moves.