Disney Patent May Fix Motionless Yeti, Improve Other Animatronics

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expedition everest track

Credit: Disney

The Walt Disney Company recently filed a new robotics patent that is designed to suppress robotic vibrations.

expedition everest animal kingdom
Credit: Disney

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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.

Essentially, this new Disney robotic technology will allow animatronics to have less unwanted motion, in part due to a lighter/softer construction process. As noted in the patent, this will save The Walt Disney Company money over time as they begin constructing animatronic robots for new theme park rides and attractions.

If you’re a Walt Disney World Resort fan, the first thing that probably came to mind when you read this patent is the infamous Expedition Everest Yeti Animatronic. The Yeti on Disney’s Animal Kingdom’s roller coaster has been motionless for 12 years at this point, causing fans of the popular ride to create memes and merchandise related to the operational issue.

yeti expedition everest
Credit: D23

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Just last summer, now-retired Disney Imagineer Joe Rohde explained the complex nature of fixing the Yeti

“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.”

Since Disney World officials haven’t announced any upcoming Expedition Everest work, it is, of course, possible that this new patent has absolutely nothing to do with the non-functional Yeti.

It could simply be a patent filed in preparation of new Imagineering projects — the fact that it mentions “softer” robotics components brings to mind the extremely smooth-moving, realistic Anna, Elsa, and Olaf animatronic robots that are used in EPCOT’s Frozen Ever After ride.

frozen ever after animatronics
Credit: Disney

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It should be mentioned that Expedition Everest does not have a refurbishment scheduled any time soon. If this patent is indeed intended for the Yeti, we will have to wait a little longer to find out. For now, we will just have to wait and see if this new robotics technology is ultimately used to repair the long-suffering Yeti for Disney’s Animal Kingdom Guests.

What do you think about this Disney patent?

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