By KIM BELLARD
The healthcare world is abuzz with Dr. David Feinberg’s departure from Google Health – another tech giant is shocked to find healthcare was so complicated! – while one of those tech giants (Amazon) not only just surpassed Walmart in consumer spending but also is now planning to build its own department stores. Both very interesting, but all I can think about is robots.
Most of the recent publicity about robots has come from Elon Musk’s announcement of the Tesla Bot, or the new video of Boston Dynamic’s Atlas doing more amazing acrobatics, but I was more intrigued by Brooks Barnes’s New York Times article Are You Ready for Sentient Disney Robots?
Like many industries that serve consumers, healthcare has long been envious of Disney’s success with customer experience. Disney even offers the Disney Institute to train others in their expertise with it. Disney claims its advantage is: “Where others let things happen, we’re consistently intentional in our actions.” That means focusing on “the details that other organizations may often undermanage—or ignore.”
You’d have to admit that healthcare ignores too many of the details, allowing things to happen that shouldn’t.
One of the things that Disney has long included in its parks’ experience were robots. It has had robots in its parks since the early 1960’s, when it introduced “audio-animatronics” – mechanical figures that could move, talk, or sing in very life-like ways. Disney has continued to iterate its robots, but, as Mr. Barnes points out, in a world of video games, CGI, VR/AR, and, for heaven’s sake, Atlas robots doing flips, its lineup was growing dated.
Mr. Barnes quotes Josh D’Amaro, chairman of Disney Parks, Experiences and Products, from an April presentation: “We think a lot about relevancy. We have an obligation to our fans, to our guests, to continue to evolve, to continue to create experiences that look new and different and pull them in. To make sure the experience is fresh and relevant.”
Enter Project Kiwi.
In April, Scott LaValley, the lead engineer on the project, told TechCrunch’s Matthew Panzarino: “Project KIWI started about three years ago to figure out how we can bring our smaller characters to life at their actual scale in authentic ways.” The prototype is Marvel’s character Groot, featured in comic books and the Guardians of the Galaxy movies (he is famous for only saying “I am Groot,” although apparently different intonations result in an entire language).
By 2021, they had a functioning prototype:Continue reading…