Disney's New Robot is So Precise it Can Thread a Needle

Disney Research Labs have been working to develop a robot that can be controlled by a human and provide the same dexterity as a human user.
Trevor English

Disney Research Labs have been working to develop a robot that can be controlled by a human and provide the same dexterity as a human user. This is useful in long-distance operations, and it allows human to process the precision of robotic control. Disney has been working on this robot for a while, and they just upgraded the system's hydraulics, which allows for another level of extreme precision.

There are other robots out there used in the medical industry that operate in precise depths of field, but one with the same layout as human anatomy has yet to be fine-tuned. This Disney robot marks the next step in recreating an anatomically correct, functional, human-robot. The plan for this technology, at least for Disney, is to use it in theme parks to interact seamlessly with guests. Check out all it can do in the video below.


According to Gizmodo, the unique thing about this robot its use of a hybrid air and liquid hydraulics/pneumatics system, which allows for more precise movements, as well as almost immediate feedback to inputs. The use of the combination of pneumatics and hydraulics decreases the weight of the robot from excess fluid, and it also allows for lines to be smaller.

Cameras on the robot's head are fed directly to the remote user and viewed through a virtual reality lens. This gives the user immediate control over the bot, and it can even handle an egg, catch a ball, or thread a needle, like below.

robot thread needle
Source: DisneyResearchHub

There is one limitation to the current set-up, and that is the proximity to the robot that the user needs to operate in. Currently, the input system is directly connected to the robot through hydraulic and pneumatic lines, so you can only really be on the other side of the wall.

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Long term, this won't be a problem, as the system will likely be set up with remote compressors and pumps which supply the same amount of control, but allowing the user to be a great distance away.


What makes this robot unique is its ability to mimic human interaction and even human touch. The hands are currently just rubber balls, but combined with mechanical hands, this could be used even more effectively.

Even though the human anatomy has created one of the best functioning machines for interaction with the physical realm, it turns out that we are really hard to recreate in machine form, but this robot is getting closer.

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