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Gaze in absolute horror at Disney Research's new skinless animatronic test robot

By Jeff Spry

Walt Disney and his team of Imagineers pioneered the field of Audio-Animatronics starting in 1963 with the Magic Kingdom's Enchanted Tiki Room and its menagerie of colorful singing birds.

Then Disney upped their game the next year with amazing presentations of Great Moments With Mr. Lincoln, Carousel of Progress, and It's a Small World at its pavilions at the 1964-65 New York World's Fair, three showstopping attractions that would eventually be brought to California's Disneyland

A few years later, Disney's visionary crew fine-tuned and advanced the uncanny technology beginning in 1967 on the rollicking E-ticket ride Pirates of the Caribbean and its "Wildest Crew to Ever Sack the Spanish Main."

Now the mad scientists at Disney Research are upping their game with an unsettling showcase video of its newest Audio-Animatronic robot, a skinless, lipless horror that seeks to replicate the nuances and emotion of a human gaze. Brace yourself and prepare for a bit of a fright!

A little disturbing, yet fascinating, yes? Disney Research's Halloween treat describes the evolution of a next-gen system for lifelike gaze in human-robot interactions employing a humanoid animatronic bust.

They're revealing a general architecture that hopes to not only to manifest gaze interactions from a technological perspective, but also show optical tracking, reading motion, and personal engagement to create an interaction that demonstrates the illusion of life. This is also being studied via the lens of character animation where the believability of motion is of vital importance.

Disney's semi-scary robot is able to react to external stimuli as well by maintaining eye contact with a moving subject, blinking, and demonstrating saccades, which are fast, simultaneous movement of both eyes between two or more phases of fixation.

We're not sure where your paranoia lies, but it seems we're headed to Westworld much faster than we ever imagined!