Disney Research is an international network of research labs at The Walt Disney Company with the purpose to pursue scientific and technological forefront innovations for the company. An example would be its research on 3D printed lifelike skin for robots. In collaboration with Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich (ETC Zurich), the two were able to develop a robot that can traverse walls.
Called the VertiGo, the four-wheeled robot is equipped with two tiltable propellers that provide thrust onto the wall, allowing for near-seamless transition from the ground to a wall and vice versa. One pair of wheels is steerable, and each propeller has two degrees of freedom for adjusting the direction of thrust. Such a feat extends the ability of robots to travel through urban and indoor environments.
The Science Behind the Disney Magic
According to the technical specifications, the ratio between the thrust output and the VertiGo’s weight had to be maximized for the robot to effectively perform the climb. Weight is minimized by using a central carbon fiber baseplate, while 3D-printed parts are used for more complex three dimensional structures like the wheel suspension or the wheels themselves.
The VertiGo is operated as easily as a common radio-controlled car. However unlike the common children’s RC car this one has two infrared distance sensors mounted up front to estimate its orientation in space.
The released robot is currently a prototype, and there is currently no plans of mass producing it for the public. Its initial application is entertainment including advanced visual effects.