Some toys look like they're about ready to come to life and stab you. And if Disney has anything to do with it, we're going to see even more toys with creepy, lifelike faces in the future, thanks to a new technology called Papillion that 3D-prints eyes onto toys, robots, and other interactive characters.

There's the saying that eyes are the windows to the soul, and apparently that's somewhat true with robots too. Disney says it's one of the most important—and challenging—details when you want to make an animatronic look lifelike. Think of Disney World's Hall of Presidents or Country Bear Jamboree. Pretty convincing peepers on Old Hickory, right? Here's how Papillion takes the foundations of that tech further:

Eyes are designed as a bundle of 3D printed optical fibers guiding images projected on the receiving end of the bundle to the surfaces of the character eye. The eyes are printed slice-by-slice using transparent photopolymers separated by a translucent support material. PAPILLION is based on a set of algorithms that implements classic Fibonacci spirals and Voronoi tessellation for efficient packing of fibers on a surface of an eye and in the bundle.


In other words, eyes can morph and change into all kinds of shapes, which in the human world are more commonly known as emotions. Essentially, highly responsive clusters of optical fibers are responding to stimuli from within the toy. Just look at the demo. In less than a minute, toys are showing every emotion from sadness to dismay to skepticism to happiness. It's pretty amazing that toys can show such a wide range of feelings, but also slightly alarming. Has the system become self-aware? Nah, but the technology behind today's toys sure is a lot more intelligent than those dolls that pee on you. [Disney Research via Geekosystem]