Learning From Animators: Luxo Jr. Comes to Life

Luxo Jr. animated lamp teaches us about robot design

The iconic Pixar animated lamp, Luxo Jr., unofficially debuted in animatronic form at Disney's Hollywood Studios in late June (videos below).  Both the animated and animatronic Luxo Jrs. have remarkable anthropomorphic emotive capabilities in spite of their simple, non-human form.  This reminds me of conversations in Dr. Andrea Thomaz's human-robot interaction course about applying animation techniques to design more effective social robots -- clearly Disney's Imagineers have perfected this art.

For example, recall the animated version of Luxo Jr. that is typically shown in theaters preceding Pixar feature films.


Now, compare that to the animatronic Luxo Jr., during the day: 


And again at dusk.


True, physical constraints make the animatronic Luxo Jr. more sluggish than its animated counterpart, but it is still surprisingly expressive. 

Thanks to Dr. Thomaz for pointing this out.  Again, I recommend reading her essay on applying animation techniques to robot design.