I Touched Disney’s HoloTile Floor: Behind the Scenes at Imagineering video – CNET

Apr 4, 2024


Speaker 1: Disney invented a way you can walk forever and stay in the same place. And I got to see it for myself. I’m about to go inside Disney’s Imagineering Labs to see some of the tech behind the magic. I won’t be able to record everything. I’m not even sure what to expect, but let’s find out together. The Imagineering campus in Glendale, California is where the company’s artists and engineers work together to explore how cutting edge tech can be used to surprise guests at the Disney theme parks. And so much at this [00:00:30] campus’s top secret that Disney asked for us not to record any video. Wait, what do you mean we can’t film inside? I’ll show you some of Disney’s footage to help describe it all. I saw a number of ways that robotics were bringing animated cartoons to life inside of rides, but now we are seeing robots untethered.

Speaker 1: They’re performing while also adjusting to their environment in real time. The coolest tech I got to see up close is the Disney Hollow Tile floor. It is a modular system [00:01:00] of spinning discs that adjust depending on how you walk. It’s like an omnidirectional treadmill, allowing people to walk anywhere infinitely, and it can also move objects, giving the illusion that you have the power of telekinesis. You can take a stroll in VR without worrying about tripping over anything, or dancers on a stage could use it for a cool performance. And I had fun pretending that I had Jedi powers. So there was one sample tile. It had a group of those circles spinning [00:01:30] treadmills. I got to touch it. I felt them spinning, but also you could put anything on it and control it. So we had a little Luke Skywalker toy and I had a game controller, and wherever I moved I could just move it around.

Speaker 1: But we had to leave and we didn’t have a lot of time there. I wish I had more time to play. Hollow tiles could be placed into any pattern you want and expand to be however large you need. The floor lidar sensors on the floor detect movement and the round discs will kick into action each rotating and spinning [00:02:00] and tilting around so it’s gliding the foot or object to where it should go. All of these spinning treadmills are working together to move something. It was adjusting to exactly how he was walking, his speed, his stride. Multiple people can be on the floor at the same time and they won’t run into each other. This is the first step to having a real life. Star Trek holodeck. Here’s a fun fact you can run on it. How fast can you run? Well, as long as you’re not faster than Usain Bolts, you should be okay because they said it could handle him. [00:02:30] I got to see up close the new figures from Tiana’s Bayou Adventure. This is an upcoming ride based on the Princess and the frog. Movie work is still being done on these characters. A few of them still had their machinery guts exposed. We certainly are worlds apart from Walt Disney’s original talking Tiki birds audio animatronics,

Speaker 2: Right audio animatronics.

Speaker 3: For so long they’ve been bolted to the ground. With these new technologies and these emerging tools, we’re able to take them off [00:03:00] the floor and flip them through the air, have them run jump hop, do impossible things you couldn’t imagine, and that’s what we’re really excited about is the potential of audio animatronics to continue to be even more surprising and dynamic characters in our story worlds.

Speaker 1: Most of Disney’s robots perform in controlled environments, but how do you get a robot to interact with an unpredictable guest? AI technology is making it possible for the creatures to adapt to any environment. I got up close with these BD X droids. They’re powered with Nvidia [00:03:30] chips. A puppets here controls it with a steam deck, but for the droid two bobs head around in these cute ways, while also not falling over an obstacle, it needs to quickly adjust to the ground conditions. Now, it’s been programmed to understand almost every possible scenario of animation and walking.

Speaker 3: We can’t hand animate every possible walk cycle for every possible movement, so that’s where we pair the reinforcement learning with the training from an animator to create something that is cute and lifelike and believable [00:04:00] that can also navigate the unpredictable terrain of a theme park.

Speaker 1: The droids are being released in limited tests now in Disneyland. I got to hold this giant lightsaber. I’ve been reporting and talking about it for a long time, but to be able to hold it in my hand was just next level. Geek out. I hit the button, it makes the sound, it extends all the way out. I love seeing how something from your childhood fantasy, the movies, it could be really real with [00:04:30] today’s tech.

This post was originally published on Cnet

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