Documents posted on the official Disney Research website details plans for what they refer to as physical face cloning.
“We propose a complete process for designing, simulating and fabricating synthetic skin for an animatronics character that mimics the face of a given subject and its expressions,” the document states.
Scientists and researchers based in a Zürich lab were motivated by the idea of translating the company’s ability to create realistic virtual worlds – seen, for example, in movies released by Disney-owned Pixar – into tangible actuality.
“We are naturally intrigued by the prospect of creating virtual humans in the likeness of ourselves – and it is not far-fetched to say that this is also a driving force for computer graphics research,” the document noted in its introduction. “While the latter strives to photorealistically [sic] create human characters on a computer screen, animatronics aims at creating physical robot characters that move and look like real humans.”
The multi-step process begins with a three-dimensional scan to assess the detailed topography of a human face. Measurements that catalog minute details such as facial hairs are taken and entered into a virtual rendering of the model’s visage.
Scientists then take the image from virtual to physical, using a carefully developed synthetic skin made of silicone placed on an animatronic head to complete the model. During their experiments, researchers let the completed head sit for seven days at room temperature.
“Our experimental validation shows that using this process provides a principled way to design soft-tissue animatronic features,” the document concludes. “We believe that our computationally guided process for designing and fabricating animatronic characters will serve as a blueprint for how future robots with soft tissue should be built.”
Disney hopes to use the technology in their theme parks once it is further developed to work past its initial limitations, including at Walt Disney World in Lake Buena Vista, the website Motherboard reports.