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Research Hints That Disney May Develop Real-Life Baymax

in Disney, Technology

baymax hug

Credit: Disney

If you’ve ever watched Big Hero 6 — and if you haven’t, you’re missing out — you’ve probably uttered the words, “I wish Baymax was real.” I know I have.

baymax hiro tadashi
Credit: Disney

From the moment Tadashi introduces Hiro to the lovable nurse robot, fans of the 2014 movie were smitten. Big Hero 6 is arguably underrepresented in Disney Parks around the world.

Only Tokyo Disneyland — the film was particularly popular in Japan, undoubtedly due, in part, to the Asian-American main character and San Fransokyo setting — currently has an attraction dedicated to the movie. The Happy Ride With Baymax just opened in September 2020 and is officially described as the following:

Experience this wild musical ride developed by the young inventor Hiro Hamada. As up-tempo music plays, this ride is sure to make everyone happy.

As you can see in this photo of the attraction [below], every party of Guests who rides gets their own personal Baymax figure attached to their ride vehicle. These versions of Baymax, however, are not animatronic.

happy ride with baymax
Credit: Tokyo Disney Resort

But, could Disney possibly be developing it’s very own Baymax robot? An exciting Disney research & development project indicates it might be a possibility!

The Disney Research website published a new study in October¬†— it is entitled Dynamic Emotional Language Adaptation in Multiparty Interactions with Agents. The paper was presented at the International Conference on Intelligent Virtual Agents (IVA) 2020 and written by Bahar Irfan (Disney Research/University Of Plymouth, UK), Anika Narayanan (Disney Research), and James Kennedy (Disney Research.).

In order to achieve more believable interactions with artificial agents, there is a need to produce dialogue that is not only relevant, but also emotionally appropriate and consistent. This paper presents a comprehensive system that models the emotional state of users and an agent to dynamically adapt dialogue utterance selection. A Partially Observable Markov Decision Process (POMDP) with an online solver is used to model user reactions in real-time. The model decides the emotional content of the next utterance based on the rewards from the users and the agent. The previous approaches are extended through jointly modeling the user and agent emotions, maintaining this model over time with a memory, and enabling interactions with multiple users. A proof of concept user study is used to demonstrate that the system can deliver and maintain distinct agent personalities during multiparty interactions.

baymax-hiro
Credit: Disney

The most intriguing thing about this artificial intelligence research is that it is focused on allowing the model to determine “the emotional content of the next utterance based on the rewards from the users and the agent.” This is almost identical to what Tadashi did when he developed Baymax.

Furthermore, Disney’s research paper notes that “A proof of concept user study is used to demonstrate that the system can deliver and maintain distinct agent personalities during multiparty interactions. This sounds amazingly similar to the way in which Baymax interacts differently with every character in the Big Hero 6 crew — Honey Lemon, Hiro, GoGo, Fred, and Wasabi.

big hero 6
Credit: Disney
Another interesting thing to note is that Disney has — apparently simultaneously with this research — been developing various patents, including one that could be used for walking robots, that could, in theory, be used to develop a real-life Baymax robotic character.
If a real Baymax is in the works, there are a few possibilities for how it could be used. First, of course, the new generation of animatronic could somehow be used in a Disney theme park meet-and-greet or brand new ride at Disneyland Resort or Walt Disney World Resort in the U.S.
big hero 6
Credit: Disney
Or, there is the off-chance that Disney could be developing a live-action Big Hero 6 movie with a robotic (rather than CGI) Baymax character.
Nonetheless, no matter how Disney uses this research — even if a real Baymax never comes to fruition — it is sure to be fascinating!
What do you think? Is a real Baymax in the works? We can almost hear him saying, “Are you satisfied with your care?”

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