A Spoonful of Science: Disney Opens New Research Labs

DiscoblogBy Andrew MosemanAug 13, 2008 8:32 PM


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Heigh-ho, Heigh-ho, it's off to do science we go. In the early 1990s, Disney brought modern computer graphics to its films by signing a deal with Pixar, which led to movies like Toy Stoy, Finding Nemo, and Wall-E. Now, Disney is starting its own scientific enterprise: The entertainment giant says is will create two brand new research centers, one at Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich and the other at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh. Disney says that working with the Swiss institute will help them keep up with the newest developments in computer imaging and animation. But it's not all about the movies: The universities say Disney's involvement—and dollars—could propel technologies useful for creating computer simulations of complex phenomena, or developing robotic vision. And speaking of robots, the first task of the Carnegie Mellon lab is to see whether they build machines to entertain the crowds at Walt Disney World. Jessica Hodgins, who will head the operation, says she hopes to make robots that can interact with visitors to the Magic Kingdom for as long as 15 or 20 minutes. Perhaps this is why Disney forbade employees from bringing guns to work—robots might be taking their jobs.

Image: flickr/Savannah Grandfather

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