When it comes to progress, nobody can beat Walt Disney Imagineering.
Walt Disney Imagineers have improved everything with their golden touch and Disney magic, from waiting in line to the technology used in attractions and live entertainment.
However, Walt Disney Imagineers have taken technology in the Parks to ‘a whole new world’ with an interactive life-size Tinker Bell and a Judy Hopps robot.
Recently, Disney debuted this new technology at SXSW 2023 in Austin, Texas.
Here is a video of the interactive Tinker Bell and the amazing Judy Hopps robot.
Judy Hopps is the main character in the Disney film Zootopia (2016). This dynamic robot in her likeness impressed audiences by doing somersaults, falling, and getting back up.
Disney Parks, Experiences, and Products chairman Josh D’Amaro explains that using robotics to create interactive character meet-and-greet experiences isn’t science fiction, but is something that can be made possible very soon. Through the use of AI (artificial intelligence), a Judy Hopps robot could easily interact with Guests, theoretically in the same magical way that performers have done so in the past.
However, this may not bode very well for the Disney Parks, Cast Members, or even Guests.
A robot prototype of Judy Hopps revealed today at SXSW 2023.
It can fall down, get back up, move around on roller skates, and even do a somersault.pic.twitter.com/MUZgagR0CS
— Disney Animation Promos (@DisneyAPromos) March 10, 2023
First and foremost, artificial intelligence taking over jobs is an ominous thought. Suppose a robot prototype such as this one begins making its way into the theme parks. In that case, many character performers and entertainers may soon find themselves let go, their occupations now obsolete.
Secondly, one of the most magical parts of a character meet-and-greet is how real it feels. Although an actor or an actress is playing the character, those human interactions (even when said human is wearing a suit) feel so real because of the effort performers put into each interaction to make it memorable.
Imagine experiencing a meet-and-greet with a mechanical Judy Hopps versus experiencing a meet-and-greet with an actress portraying Judy Hopps. One sounds more hollow, while the other sounds more organic and natural, paving the way for more magical interactions.
Disney released another video of the prototype robot: pic.twitter.com/e2cmSkphid
— Scott Gustin (@ScottGustin) March 10, 2023
Lastly, disrespectful Guests may very well ruin the experience for others.
Let’s face it: there are some jerks out there, even at Walt Disney World and Disneyland. If this prototype robot is going to wander around to interact with and greet Guests, there’s a good chance it’ll be abused at some point.
Put it this way: if a character attendant does little to deter unruly Guests from abusing character performers, imagine the lack of empathy the same Guests will feel for a robot character. Not only are unsavory interactions inevitable, but they’re also bound to happen in front of children.
Although disrespectful Guests will promptly be escorted away, it won’t undo the damage done for younger Guests and their experience.
In short, although this dynamic robot is nothing short of miraculous, there are some significant drawbacks to be considered before introducing it to the theme parks.