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Disney Assembles Artificial Intelligence Task Force

Updated: Dec 31, 2023

[Edited] Walt Disney has established a task force to delve into the possibilities of artificial intelligence (AI) and its potential applications across the entertainment conglomerate, according to sources.

Walt Disney
Credits: Reuters

This move comes at a time when Hollywood writers and actors are fighting against the perceived exploitation of AI in the industry.


The task force, which was launched earlier this year before the Hollywood writers' strike, aims to develop AI applications in-house and forge partnerships with startups. Disney has even posted 11 job openings seeking candidates with expertise in artificial intelligence and machine learning.


The job descriptions indicate that these positions span various departments within the company, including Walt Disney Studios, theme parks, engineering group Walt Disney Imagineering, Disney-branded television, and the advertising team, which is looking to build a "next-generation" AI-powered ad system.


While a Disney spokesperson declined to comment on the matter, an anonymous source within the company emphasized the importance of legacy media companies like Disney embracing AI to avoid becoming obsolete.

The supporter of AI within Disney sees it as a tool to help control the skyrocketing costs of movie and television production. With budgets reaching up to $300 million for major film releases like "Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny" or "The Little Mermaid," cost savings through AI implementation could be significant over time.


AI also holds potential for enhancing customer support and creating unique interactions within Disney's parks business, according to a former Disney Imagineer and a second source. They pointed to Project Kiwi as an example, where machine learning techniques were used to create Baby Groot, a small robot that mimics the movements and personality of the "Guardians of the Galaxy" character. The former Imagineer even mentioned the possibility of Baby Groot interacting with park guests in the future.


However, AI has become a contentious issue in Hollywood, with writers and actors viewing it as a threat to their jobs. The Screen Actors Guild and the Writers Guild of America, both currently on strike, have made AI a central issue in their contract negotiations.


Disney has been cautious in its public discussions about AI. Visual effects supervisors who worked on the latest "Indiana Jones" movie highlighted the extensive efforts of over 100 artists who spent three years working to "de-age" Harrison Ford for the film's opening scenes.


Disney's interest in technological innovation is not new. Since its early days, the company has invested in various technological advancements, holding over 4,000 patents with applications in theme parks, films, and merchandise. Bob Iger, Disney's CEO, has prioritized technology as one of the company's key focuses since 2005.


Disney's research and development initiatives have included collaborations with top technology universities worldwide. The company's U.S. research group has developed mixed-reality technology called "Magic Bench," allowing people to interact with virtual characters on-screen without the need for special glasses.


Disney Research in Switzerland has been exploring AI, machine learning, and visual computing for the past decade. Their advancements include creating "digital humans" that are indistinguishable from real people and using Medusa performance capture systems to reconstruct actors' faces without traditional motion-capture techniques.

Hao Li, CEO and co-founder of Pinscreen, a company specializing in AI-driven virtual avatars, revealed that he collaborated with Disney's lab while studying in Zurich. He believes that some of the techniques developed by Disney will be adopted by the company's various entities.


Disney Imagineering introduced an AI-driven character experience last year with the D3-09 cabin droid in the Star Wars Galactic Starcruiser hotel. This interactive character could answer questions on a video screen and learn and adapt based on conversations with guests.


Disney's foray into AI is a testament to its commitment to technological innovation and its recognition of the potential benefits and cost savings that AI can bring to the entertainment industry.

 
  • Disney has formed a task force to explore AI applications across its entertainment conglomerate.

  • The company has posted job openings seeking candidates with expertise in artificial intelligence and machine learning.

  • AI could help control the rising costs of movie and television production.


Source: REUTERS

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