Disney’s New Robot Can Climb Walls

December 31, 2015, 9:56 PM UTC
Disney Research

Disney Research is developing a new generation of robots as a potential successor to the miniature smartphone-controlled Sphero BB-8 that you can buy today.

The entertainment company’s Zurich research lab, in partnership with ETH Zurich university, unveiled the VertiGo robot this week that can climb walls. VertiGo, which runs on four wheels, can seamlessly transition from ground navigation to wall climbing thanks to two tiltable propellers that provide the thrust.

Paul Beardsley, principal research scientist at Disney Research Zurich, said one pair of wheels is steerable, and each propeller has two degrees of freedom for adjusting the direction of thrust. This allows the wheels to lift and climb over objects, or up walls.

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“By transitioning from the ground to a wall and back again, VertiGo extends the ability of robots to travel through urban and indoor environments,” Beardsley writes in the research paper. “The robot is able to move on a wall quickly and with agility.”

The robot, which has a built in control system, is designed to be maneuvered much like a toy remote-controlled car. In the future, it may be possible to use a smartphone to control it like with Sphero’s BB-8 and Ollie line of miniature robots.

Although this the VertiGo is just a concept at this point, Disney’s Star Wars and Marvel franchises open up new opportunities for its Disney Consumer Products division. With droids being among the most popular characters from the various Star Wars films and TV shows, one can imagine what this type of technology could be a hugely successful consumer product in the future.

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In June, Disney merged its consumer products and interactive divisions to bring create new products like Playmation Marvel’s Avengers that combine technology and video gaming. That line of interactive wearable toys, which uses augmented reality technology, includes new Star Wars products for 2016 and Frozen products in 2017.

In May, Disney Research debuted a portly bipedal robot that mimics the walking of Disney animated characters. This opens up the potential down the line to release consumer products based on computer-animated or animated feature films or television shows.

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