‘The Sky Is The Limit’: Walt Disney Imagineering Releases Video Detailing BD Droid Playtest at Disneyland Park

Kyle Silagyi

‘The Sky Is The Limit’: Walt Disney Imagineering Releases Video Detailing BD Droid Playtest at Disneyland Park

Walt Disney Imagineering has released a video documenting their recent playtest involving roaming BD droids at Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge at Disneyland Park.

Imagineering Details BD Droid Playtest at Disneyland Park

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The playtest occurred on October 12 and brought free-standing, roaming BD droids to the streets of Black Spire Outpost. The most commonly known BD droid is BD-1, Cal Kestis’ companion in the “Jedi Fallen Order” video game series. Other BD droids have appeared in additional “Star Wars” material, including “The Book of Boba Fett” Disney+ program.

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The new video from Walt Disney Imagineering shows both footage of the playtest and behind-the-scenes clips that showcase the work that went into the development of the droids. Several Imagineers share insight throughout the short video, with Executive R& D Imagineer Joel Peavy stating the following about the purpose of the exercise:

We’re playtesting our new legged walking character platform at Disneyland’s Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge, walking them through the land to help us better understand what types of interactions really resonate with our guests.

Joel Peavy, Walt Disney Imagineering

The video explores the development of the robots, providing footage from several phases of the construction process.

Engineers and animators both are key to a project like this. Engineers are creating an electromechanical system that can physically walk and balance and move, while it’s the animators’ job to artistically craft and shape these movements into a personality. Taken together, this creates a relatable character instead of just a robot.

Joel Peavy, Walt Disney Imagineering
BD Droid Behind the Scenes
Source: Walt Disney Imagineering

The droids, as seen at Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge on October 12, can walk on their own and organically react to their surroundings. Disney Research Associate Lab Director Moritz Bächer spoke about the research and work that went into getting the droids to this point in the video:

“These robotic characters are a technological advancement because we have them actually learn to perform expressive motions. To achieve these, we bring them into a simulation environment and have them learn to imitate motions that an animator on our team has specified. To get our robots to walk and emote, we reward them if they closely follow the motions that our animators specify while also making sure that they always keep balance at all times.

Moritz Bächer, Disney Research

Bächer shared that, given the relative affordability and accessibility of 3D printing, droids can progress from the early concept phase to training in less than one year. He also noted that the technology developed to give the BD droids individuality is “agnostic to the characters that [Imagineering] built,” meaning that it can be applied to robots of any size. Bächer stated that the “sky is the limit” for the technology.

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The video shares that guest response to the roaming droids was overwhelmingly positive. Check out the full clip from Walt Disney Imagineering’s YouTube channel here:

Interactive, roaming droids were initially promised for Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge, but the plan never came to fruition. Disney ruled that the lands at both Disneyland Park and Disney’s Hollywood Studios would be too crowded for free-roaming droids in their opening weeks and months, ultimately deciding against their implementation altogether.

Do you hope to see free-roaming droids consistently used at Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge soon? Let us know in the comments.

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