The yeti in Expedition Everest at Disney’s Animal Kingdom is arguably the most infamous animatronic ever created. When the attraction opened in 2006, the beast would use a giant robotic arm to swing at terrified riders. However, this motion started to cause damage to the structure of the ride, and the animatronic was quickly switched into a “b-mode” where lights flicker as the coaster passes by. The yeti has sat motionless for 12 years, but a new patent might change that.
The new patent, titled “Computational Vibration Suppression for Robotic Systems,” was filed by Disney and may allow for revitalized yeti animatronic. The description for the patent reads:
“A robot control method, and associated robot controllers and robots operating with such methods and controllers, providing computational vibration suppression. Given a desired animation cycle for a robotic system or robot, the control method uses a dynamic simulation of the physical robot, which takes into account the flexible components of the robot, to predict if vibrations will be seen in the physical robot. If vibrations are predicted with the input animation cycle, the control method optimizes the set of motor trajectories to return a set of trajectories that are as close as possible to the artistic or original intent of the provider of the animation cycle, while minimizing unwanted vibration. The new control method or design tool suppresses unwanted vibrations and allows a robot designer to use lighter and/or softer (less stiff) and, therefore, less expensive systems in new robots.”
In other words, this new patent will help control and reduce excess motion on the animatronic by finding a less complicated way to handle its movements. This could potentially be a solution for the broken yeti animatronic, as its movements were causing structural damage to the ride.
The patent bares resemblance to a video that Disney Research Hub posted to their YouTube channel in 2019. The video, titled “Vibration-Minimizing Motion Retargeting for Robotic Characters,” shows various animatronics and robots using technology to control vibrations, which is similar to what is shown in the patent. The patent is most likely an updated version of what is shown in this video.
Joe Rohde, now-retired Walt Disney Imagineer and mastermind behind Expedition Everest, recently discussed the difficult situation surrounding the yeti. Here’s what he said over the summer:
“It’s not an issue of maintenance access, they were part of the design team and set the standard. In fact, it was seen as a model collaborative process. It’s an unexpected and unforeseen set of issues, very complex, with no easy or timely solutions as of yet. These guys did not ignore something or botch it. Innovation is like physical exploration of unknown spaces. There is stuff out there that you didn’t know, and you only encounter it by exploration. But then….there it is.”
Though it is still unknown at this time, these unforeseen issues may finally have a solution thanks to this new patent. Even if the patent is not used on Expedition Everest, there are still plenty of other animatronics on various Disney attractions that could benefit from the vibration-fixing technology. It could also be seen on an upcoming attraction. Until the company makes an official announcement, its anyone’s guess as to what the technology will be used for.
Check out the full patent here.
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