Disney to create robots with emotive eyes

Say what you will about Disney, but the company sure comes up with some fun products. Being cast as a mini Stormtrooper is certainly a unique offering. Using that same 3D printing technology, Disney has moved a step further: it’ll create robots with expressive eyes.

By using a bundle of optical fibers printed with the aforementioned 3D printing tech, researchers found they could project an image on one end of the bundle and have it appear at the other. This technology is called PAPILLON, and it was created to allow for displays of emotions in physical toys and robots to match those often seen in cartoons and animated shows. I.e. instead of having realistic expressions, a heart might appear in the eyes, signaling romance, or a dollar sign to denote greed.

PAPILLON offers incredible accuracy, which allows displayed images like a heart to appear on the curved surface of “eyes,” without being distorted at the edges.

Here’s the real science-y stuff, from Disney’s research webpage: “PAPILLION is based on a set of algorithms that implements classic Fibonacci spirals and Voronoi tessellation for efficient packing of fibers on a surface of an eye and in the bundle. This allows creating arbitrary curved display surfaces while minimizing visible artifacts, such as light distortions on the edges of the eye. The resulting technology is effective in designing compact, efficient displays of a small size and shape that can have a broad range of applications.”

Put simply, what it means for us is really cool little robot toys with cartoon-like displays in their eyes. Certainly not the stuffed animals I grew up with. At the moment, this isn’t on the consumer market as it’s only research. But soon, our children will be sporting these little guys.

And, of course, this technology doesn't have to be used only in toys. The only limit for it is our imagination, something Disney seems to have in large supply.

See the insanely cute video below to see PAPILLION in action.

Disney Research, via The Verge

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