Disney Develops A Skinless Robot That Mimics Staring, Blinking And Breathing

by : Daniel Richardson on : 02 Nov 2020 12:13
Disney makes scary robotDisney

When a robot mimics human behaviour it can be pretty unsettling, and Disney’s skinless robot is no exception. However, the technology behind the intimidating machine is very impressive. 

Despite the leaps forward taken in making robots more personable, one element that makes them unmistakably not human is the eyes. While people often take it for granted, the way we make eye contact, blink and even breath are important parts of how we socially interact. The team at Disney Research have now developed a robot that can mirror subtle head movements as well as how eyes engage during interactions.


Using a sensor on its chest, the robot can read the reaction of people and respond accordingly. The result is a robot that has incredibly lifelike eyes which emote in the way a human would. The robot was designed to address this specific area of interaction and it seems that the skinless robot has been able to demonstrate how robots may better interact.

In its paper Realistic and Interactive Robot Gaze, the Disney Research team explained:

Gaze has been shown to be a key social signal, shaping perceptions of interaction partners. For example, people who make more eye contact with us are perceived to be similar to us, as well as more intelligent, conscientious, sincere, and trustworthy. Furthermore, gaze appears to also convey complex social and emotional states.

Given the importance of gaze in social interactions as well as its ability to communicate states and shape perceptions, it is apparent that gaze can function as a significant tool for an interactive robot character. Thus, the aim of this work is to develop a system to emulate human-like mutual gaze.

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In terms of using this research practically, the team at Disney may start utilizing this with characters in their parks. With that said, knowing that Mickey was really a skinless robot with a sensor may be a bit unsettling.

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Daniel Richardson

After graduating from university, Dan went on to work with a variety of tech startups and media outlets. Through working with the likes of Game Rant, The Hook and What Culture, Dan pursued his interests in technology. The skills he picked up along the way are now being utilised with UNILAD.

Topics: Technology, Disney, Now, Robotics, robots, Tech


Disney Research
  1. Disney Research

    Realistic and Interactive Robot Gaze