Disney Develops Wall-Climbing Robot

January 7, 2016 | Elizabeth Knowles

Four wheeled robot climbing a wall
Photo credit: Courtesy of Disney Research and ETH

But they won’t say why.

For most, Disney is known as the creators of child-friendly animated movies and amusement parks. What many people don’t know is that they are also very involved in research and many of the latest technologies in computer graphics, video processing, computer vision, robotics, wireless communication and mobile computing, human-computer interaction, materials research, and machine learning and optimization.

In fact, they recently developed a new robot that — wait for it — can climb walls. No, this isn’t Wall-E that I’m talking about. In a collaboration between Disney Research Zurich and the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology (ETH), researchers have created VertiGo, a wheeled robot that can transition between moving on the ground and on walls.

The press release from Disney Research doesn’t reveal why Disney is interested in such a robot, but they do say that “VertiGo extends the ability of robots to travel through urban and indoor environments.” This includes masonry and grass.

Four-wheeled robot with two propellors
Courtesy of Disney Research and ETH

VertiGo is able to climb walls thanks to two propellers that provide the thrust necessary to scale the wall. Two propellers are necessary to facilitate floor to wall transitions — the rear propeller pushes the robot towards the wall whereas the front one gives it the lift it needs to flip vertically onto the wall.

The direction of both propellers is adjustable so that they can properly target their thrust. Two of the wheels can also turn to control what direction VertiGo moves in, but none of them are motorized. In order to minimize the robot’s weight, a carbon fiber baseplate, carbon-rods, and 3-D printed parts were used.

Whether this robot ends up being used in a new Disney movie or for some other secret project, one can assume that the technology will pop up in consumer products before long. Who wouldn’t want their own wall-climbing robot after all?

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