Disney Research hacks Kinect to let robot juggle and catch

A humanoid robot from Disney Research can play catch and even juggle thanks to motion tracking from Microsoft Kinect sensors. The team of researchers based in Pittsburgh used a theme park-type animatronic humanoid robot with a modified cupped hand.

They're hoping that this project will one day let theme park goers directly interact with robots, something that's not done now. The colour and depth cameras on the Kinect sensor are used to track the colored balls and a Kalman filter or equation helps predict where they'll land.

The robot also tracks the head of participates so that it seems like the robot is looking at its ball throwing partner. When the robot catches the ball it will throw it back two and a half meters away. A missed catch triggers human-like animations to indicate failure. It will either shake its head, look behind, look down or shrug its shoulders.

Speeding up the throwing and catching routine results in juggling with the bot. Where this robot will end up is unknown since for now it's just a research project.

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