Our research competency in computer graphics is especially mature. Our entertainment businesses provide diverse target applications for our pioneering work. This allows us to achieve a rare level of cross-fertilization by juxtaposing real-time algorithms for the game studios with high-end techniques for the movie studios, achieving speed and directability in physical simulation, spanning visual styles from photorealistic to artistic, and blurring the boundaries between computer graphics and materials science.
A Disney story is often told through video, whether it’s a movie, a serial, a newscast, or professional sports. This raises a gamut of research challenges with hard-hitting economic impact: for example, automating labor-intensive processes while preserving art directability, avoiding expensive reshoots by adding content-aware flexibility in postproduction, and adapting to a world with increasingly diverse devices.
Guest interaction at theme parks, motion capture for studios, and sports visualization are just a few of the direct applications for our computer-vision research. We also perform research in which computer vision intersects with human-computer interaction, video processing, display technology, and optics: it plays a role in our work on input devices, content-aware video processing, projector-camera systems, and computational cinematography.
In this arena, we’re addressing a portfolio of research problems whose applications range from short-term improvements to long-term challenges. Ultimately, we envision a future in which robots interact with humans in complex, unpredictable environments. We’re working toward this vision by addressing constituent problems in computer graphics, control techniques for humanoid robotics, and human-robot interaction. We also create opportunities of immediate, short-term interest intended to improve operational costs and maintainability.
The unparalleled scale and density of Disney’s physical venues give rise to wireless-research topics in relatively uncharted operating regimes, with cost structures that can amortize across tens to hundreds of millions of units. Our work focuses on the physics of radio and antennas—with applications both analog and digital—as well as the algorithms and protocols necessary for wireless networking. Our research agenda is inspired primarily by opportunities at Walt Disney Parks and Resorts and at ESPN.
We’re interested in the many ways computer interfaces can span the digital and tangible worlds, giving rise to qualitatively new experiences. Our agenda takes advantage of technologies that are relatively new in the commercial world, and whose interactions have not yet been fully explored. Our researchers invent new technologies for sensing touch and pose, as well as creating new sensory experiences such as haptic illusions.
Our unique investigations into consumer behavior often take the form of field experiments with “real-life” Disney guests and customers. More recent projects have begun to shift to the intersection of technology (particularly mobile) and consumer behavior. We also study other aspects of the media consumption experience. Our goals are to enhance guest satisfaction, test new business models, and further Disney’s aims around social consciousness and sustainability.
The computational material groups investigates novel algorithms and approaches for acquiring, simulating, and fabricating materials and objects. Our vision is to bridge the gap between the virtual and real world, allowing seamless transitions using novel measurement and rapid prototyping devices. We also focus on the representation and intuitive editing of material properties, allowing to design and create custom products for unique customer experiences.
The machine learning and optimization group works on novel algorithms that allow a computer or robot to learn to infer the most probable state of the world, and to take optimal actions, given noisy or incomplete information. We focus on developing efficient distributed optimization algorithms that are well-suited to current computing technologies. Because we focus on fundamental algorithms, our work has a wide variety of applications spanning a number of other Disney research areas, including computer vision, robotics, human-computer interaction, graphics and materials research.