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    Disneyland playtests cute droid trio in Star Wars Galaxy’s Edge
    • October 13, 2023

    A cute trio of little buddy droids who travel as Jedi companions to dangerous locations across the Star Wars universe made a surprise visit to the remote village of Batuu at Disneyland for a bit of exploration and research.

    Walt Disney Imagineering and Disney Research conducted playtests of three BD unit droids on Thursday, Oct. 12 in the Star Wars Galaxy’s Edge themed land at the Anaheim theme park.

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    New visitors were spotted in Batuu! Disney Imagineers hosted a 1-day playtest at @Disneyland with these droids in training, and we can’t wait to see where this exploration might go! #StarWarsGalaxysEdge #StarWars

    — Disney Parks (@DisneyParks) October 13, 2023

    The free-roaming droids walked in a single-file line like ducklings, greeted other static droids throughout Galaxy’s Edge and wowed visitors to Batuu, according to a WDW News Today video posted to YouTube.

    A character meet-and-greet handler dressed in Batuuan attire asked the droids to conduct a “life form check” as the robots scanned Disneyland visitors with white lights attached to their heads and twitched their ear-like antennae. During the playtest, three operators holding touchscreen tablets controlled the droid trio from a few steps away.

    The BD units were distinguished by their blue, green and orange trims and went by the names BlueBot, Greenie and Orange1.

    The cute, little robots looked like the BD-1 droid from the Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order video game.

    The BD unit droid befriends and accompanies former Padawan Cal Kestis, the main protagonist of the game, who is on a quest to rebuild the fallen Jedi Order.

    The Beedee droids, short for “buddy units,” were designed to function as companions that assist with research and exploration in remote and dangerous locations across the galaxy far, far away.

    SEE ALSO: What’s the next Star Wars destination for Disneyland’s Star Tours?

    Game designers created BD-1 as a cross between a twittering bird and a loyal dog, drawing inspiration from the personalities of Charles Schulz’s Woodstock and Snoopy, according to GameInformer.

    The BD explorer droid has eyes for scanning and antennae that react to sounds and situations like a dog’s ears, according to GameInformer.

    Beedee’s chirpy beeping voice was created by Star Wars sound designer Ben Burtt, who voiced R2-D2, according to GameInformer.

    SEE ALSO: The biggest winners in the Disneyland Magic Key settlement aren’t annual passholders

    The key to the life-like movements is the robots’ ability to imitate artist-animated keyframe motions, according to Disney Research Associate Lab Director Moritz Bacher.

    “That’s the secret sauce,” Bacher said on a Disney Parks video.

    The robots can do a happy dance, glare with red-eyed anger and replicate other human emotions, according to Bacher.

    “They walk over uneven terrain,” Bacher said on a Disney Parks video. “They can still balance. They are really robust.”

    SEE ALSO: Why Disneyland raised ticket prices while Disney World didn’t

    The robotic character prototypes developed by Disney Research walk with unique gaits and traits that combine procedural animation, modular hardware and reinforcement learning, according to News Nation reporter Scott Gustin.

    A Disney Research video shows the BD droids getting bumped without falling, having fabric pulled from underneath their feet and walking over uneven forested terrain.

    Disney Research recently unveiled the new robotic character prototype “that combines procedural animation, modular hardware, and reinforcement learning to be able to design and program a walking character capable of these unique gaits and traits.”

    — Scott Gustin (@ScottGustin) October 12, 2023

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    The droid playtest adds a level of interactivity to Galaxy’s Edge that was promised by Imagineering when the Star Wars themed land first debuted in 2019.

    When will visitors see the BD droids again in Batuu? Disneyland hasn’t said, but stay tuned.

    “We’re really excited to see the guest reaction to these and where it might go in the future,” Executive R&D Imagineer Joel Perry said in the Disney Parks video.

    ​ Orange County Register