Disney builds BeachBot that ‘draws’ large-scale art in sand


The Walt Disney Co. is known for its creativity, innovation and, of course, the ability to promote the characters at the heart of its brand. So, although it’s unlikely to be a surprise that the company has found another way to showcase its stories, this particular new method in the news recently is sure to delight Disney fans.

Information technology news website TechCrunch.com and others reported over the weekend that the Disney Research Hub developed a BeachBot in partnership with Swiss engineering school ETH Zürich. Designed to look like an adorable turtle, the robot was created to draw large-scale images in the sand.

The website describes the process this way: “[It] works by dragging a set of pins through the sand, sort of like a rake. Each pin is individually raisable, allowing the bot to draw lines of varying thicknesses. More pins down = thicker lines drawn. The artist behind the robot starts a canvas by setting down poles, which the robot uses as markers to finely calculate its position. At that point, the robot can be passed an image file to draw automatically, or the artists can steer it manually. The Beachbot moves on a set of large, soft wheels that Disney has dubbed “balloon wheels”, allowing it to move across the sand without leaving tracks or screwing up whatever it’s drawn previously.”


“The BeachBot is not just a lifeless, mechanical being; it is a friendly looking creature with a soul,” according to the bot’s official page. “The robot will be deployed at a public beach to amaze beachgoers who pass by. Not only the final picture is important, the whole drawing process will provide an exceptional, magical show.”

Can you imagine walking down to the beach at your Walt Disney World or Disneyland resort and seeing characters perfectly drawn in the sand? One could imagine that there would be plenty of opportunities on Castaway Cay, Disney Cruise Line’s private island in the Bahamas, too. And, of course, Disney’s Vero Beach Resort’s pristine Atlantic beachfront comes to mind when you think about a sandy palette, too.

Before you write off the concept as a technological gimmick that is void of real-world applications, consider other similar ways that Disney cast members already create artwork in the parks and, in the process, instill a little bit of magic for both young and young-at-heart guests.

The process reminds me of the artists at Walt Disney World who use their concrete surfaces as canvasses for water art. They deftly “draw” characters on sidewalks for passersby who can’t help but stop to watch the creations come to life. I know I can’t resist! The bot is obviously different than a live cast member, but the “street art” concept is the same: It’s fun to watch art being creating on the spot.

And although the bot might be a high-tech creation that comes from the research labs that have dreamed up – and created — wild ideas such as 3D printing creations, more realistic parade balloons and multi-dimensional tactile sensations with computer touch screens, the BeachBot really goes to the heart of what started Disney as we know it: the creativity and whimsy of drawing.

To make it happen in the sand with such a cute robotic creation is just another kind of magic one would expect only from Disney.


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