Disney Research Explores Physics of Acrobatics with “Stickman” Robot

From high-wire trapeze acts to Olympic gymnasts leaping from a springboard, acrobatics have historically delighted and challenged athletes and audiences alike. While humans have practiced these techniques for thousands of years, Disney Researchers have been exploring the potential to build robots that can perform such tricks in new and exciting ways.

At this year’s International Conference on Robotics and Automation (ICRA), Disney Researchers Günter Niemeyer and Morgan Pope presented “Stickman: Towards a Human-Scale Acrobatic Robot,” introducing a z-shaped robot capable of performing somersaulting stunts while flying through the air.

Equipped with an inertial measurement unit and laser range-finders, Stickman is able to swing from a pendulum, let go and perform a flip – or two – while flying through the air. The sensors allow the robot to evaluate its position in mid-air and adjust its motion. Being able to “see” the ground allows Stickman to determine when to tuck or untuck, and land safely, creating a smooth flip that appears as effortless as a gymnast’s dismount.

Stickman is yet another achievement for Disney Research, thanks to the organization’s relentless pursuit of scientific and technological innovation to advance The Walt Disney Company. Through this application of physics and technology, Stickman’s performance demonstrates the thrilling possibilities Disney Research continues to explore.

For more information, please visit the website at DisneyResearch.com/publication/stickman/.