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One approach that cuts across all departments at Walt Disney Imagineering (WDI) is that everything starts with a story, and technology is utilized to serve those tales. The constant advancement of technology in WDI’s various disciplines has opened up entire new worlds and their stories to generations of guests, old and young alike. Decades ago, one could only dream of flying the Millennium Falcon or watching astromech droids rolling through a crowd while essentially living inside a fictional universe. Here is an inside look at how some of the technologies being explored at WDI are powering new adventures at Disney parks around the globe.

Rolling with Jake
When visiting Disney parks, it’s not uncommon to see scores of people marveling at the sights and sounds of dreams brought to life. But for Star Wars fans, witnessing an autonomous droid roaming Disneyland in Anaheim, California, is an entirely new type of magic. Jake, a weathered orange and white robot, was tested by navigating the crowds and greeting people in front of Star Wars Launch Bay in Tomorrowland at Disneyland. While autonomous robots were not rolling around the parks when Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge opened at Disneyland in May 2019, Jake’s advancement is the new hope forging the future for AI and autonomous robot experiences.

WDI was involved in the AI and autonomous robot space before Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge was ever proposed. AI is a “pretty squishy term,” explains Michael Honeck, senior R&D Imagineer. It can range anywhere from something that is the very basic definition of AI, which is simply a computer using input to make decisions. There is also the much more emerging machine-learning space of being able to feed a computer fuzzy data and have it produce a human-like decision.


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