Good news for parents who don't have time to play catch with their kids: Disney has designed a humanoid robot that can play catch and juggle with humans.
The animatronic robot can catch a ball and throw it back with a human participant using a fresh out-of-the-box Microsoft Kinect sensor. According to a video the company released, Disney plans on using similar technology to make its rides more interactive and realistic.
"Robots in theme parks generally do not allow for physical interaction or contact," the video says. "To provide guests with a physical connection yet still maintain a safe distance, we developed a test platform for throwing and catching interactions."
The robot will even shake its head at a bad throw, shrug its shoulders if it drops the ball, and tracks a thrown ball with its "eyes."
The Kinect, originally released by Microsoft as a motion gaming device for the Xbox 360, has taken on a new life as a research tool and cheap motion sensing device. One of the winners of the 2011 Siemens Competition in Math, Science, and Technology used a Kinect camera to diagnose problems with a person's gait nearly as well as scanners that cost hundreds of thousands of dollars. The Kinect costs just $100.
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Jason Koebler is a science and technology reporter for U.S. News & World Report. You can follow him on Twitter or reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.