Disney Creating Animatronic Figures That Can Follow You

Disney Creating Animatronic Figures That Can Follow You
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The Walt Disney Company was recently awarded US Patent Number 9,424,467, entitled “GAZE TRACKING AND RECOGNITION WITH IMAGE LOCATION,” for a system that can track where guests are looking.

Several excerpts from the patent explain how this system will work:

Various entertainment environments, e.g., theme parks, attempt to track where various participants are looking within such environments. By tracking the gaze of a participant, a computing system may direct various animatronics, automated objects, or the like to interact with the participant. For example, a computing system within a theme park may direct an animatronic character from a movie to make a noise if a participant is looking at the animatronic character.

The gaze tracking configuration calculates the ratio of the amount of white in the eyes of a participant on either side of the iris for each eye of the participant. Further, the gaze tracking configuration estimates where the participant directs his or her gaze by averaging the ratios for both eyes of the participant.

Further, the gaze tracking configurations provided herein are not limited to detecting the gaze of a single person, but rather may be utilized to estimate the gaze of a group of people. During event recording, knowing where a live audience is gazing on a sports field or stage allows for automatic control of a camera to point the camera to the place of interest of the audience. For example, the gaze tracking configuration is configured to detect if a large quantity of audience members are gazing in the same direction. The gaze tracking configuration then provides that gaze data to a camera that is configured to automatically adjust to its orientation in the direction of the gaze. Similarly, understanding how a live audience pays attention to a film presentation or theatrical stage presentation can provide a director with valuable information about how the audience is receiving a film or play.

The generic responses and/or specific responses are also utilized with interactive displays. The specific responses are not limited to videos, pictures, or the like in their entireties. The specific responses are also implemented with respect to the gaze of the participant directed toward a particular scene character, object, or the like within a video, picture, or the like.

It is unknown at this point how Disney may utilize this technology, but one could imagine any of a number of scenarios where a guest could interact with a robotic character as if it were a responsive human controlling the character.  Another possibility is a virtual-reality system where the guest is in control of the experience and the system can determine where the guest wishes to go simply by where he or she is looking.  This is likely to be a part of some of the new, more immersive experiences Disney is planning or building, including Pandora: The World of Avatar, and Star Wars Land.

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About the author

Jason Diffendal

Jason has been a lifelong fan of the Disney parks since his first visit at age 2. His biennial pilgrimages during his childhood accelerated into semi-annual visits by the year 2000, when he also Joined the Disney Vacation Club. Luckily, Jason’s bride-to-be was also a Disney fan, which allowed his infatuation with the Disney parks to continue, and ultimately culminated in their wedding at Disney's Wedding Pavilion in September 2003. Early in 2007, Jason began his involvement with the planning for what became Celebration 25, the unofficial fan gathering to commemorate the 25th anniversary of Epcot®. Soon thereafter, Jason met Tom Corless at a pin trading meet in New Jersey, and became part of the WDW News Today podcast starting with Episode 17. Jason has been involved with the WDWNT Network ever since, and can't seem to escape no matter how hard he tries.
Contact Jason at [email protected]

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