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Disney’s latest project is an artistic beach robot

The Disney Research Hub is responsible for experimenting with a variety of different technology and art innovations — its previous projects have covered 3D printing and motion capture — and the team’s latest endeavor is a BeachBot robot that can draw your favorite cartoon character in the sand before your eyes.

The robot uses adjustable rakes to create lines of varying thickness, as well as ‘balloon’ wheels that can cope with the soft terrain (and which don’t erase lines as the machine passes back over them). Once the BeachBot has its frame of reference worked out, it can create a picture based on an image fed into it, or be steered manually by its operators. Laser scanners and a range of depth sensing and IMU (inertial measurement unit) technology is used by the device to make sure it always knows where it is.

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It’s a long way from line drawings of Mickey Mouse but of course Disney has its fingers in a whole load of pies these days, and no doubt this technology will eventually make its way around to different parts of the company’s empire — characters from Finding Nemo sketched out every day on the shores of a Disney resort? We’ll have to wait and see.

As TechCrunch reports, the BeachBot was developed by Disney in partnership with Swiss engineering school ETH Zürich. “BeachBot is just one of Disney Research’s projects in the area of mobile robotics, including work on path-planning, robot choreography, localization, and human-robot interaction,” says Disney.

“The BeachBot is not just a lifeless, mechanical being; it is a friendly looking creature with a soul,” explains the official page that Disney and ETH Zürich have put together. “The robot will be deployed at a public beach to amaze beachgoers who pass by. Not only the final picture is important, the whole drawing process will provide an exceptional, magical show.”