In this new series, Know Disney?, blogger Kendall Foreman will introduce readers to aspects of the Walt Disney Company®, its films, history, and parks that are possibly heretofore unknown to the reader.
“I am limited by the technology of my time, but one day you’ll figure this out.”
- Howard Stark, Iron Man 2
Even the technological deficiencies of his time did not stop Walt Disney from bringing to life the musings of his imagination. While to moviegoers his amazing fantasies appeared to be confined to the silver screen, Disney’s mind’s eye could see far beyond the limitations of film. He was a possibility thinker.
Ultimately, his “to infinity and beyond” state of mind would lead him and his co-workers—which he dubbed “Imagineers”—to test the bounds of research and development. Converting onscreen tales to real world experiences was never a question of “if” it could be done, but “how” it would be done. Disney challenged Imagineers to grasp his vision of a magical place; then, design and create all that would be necessary to make it real.
For those of us who merely partake of technological advancements in today’s world, they often seem mystifying, impossible, and come in such rapid-fire succession that it feels as though it is our imaginations that need to keep up. For Imagineers and filmmakers, who exist in a world where anything and everything needs to be possible, what do they do when the idea their imaginations have conceived is so “blue-sky” that the technology to bring it to life does not yet exist? They turn to Disney Research.
Founded in 2008, there are six Disney Research labs: Disney Research, Los Angeles in Glendale, CA; Disney Research, Pittsburgh in Pennsylvania; Disney Research, Boston in Massachusetts; Disney Research, Zürich in Switzerland; Pixar Research Group in Emeryville, CA; and Walt Disney Animation Studios Research in Burbank, CA. All six are filled with research scientists and engineers who are outstanding in their fields and able to capitalize on their proximity to learning institutions such as Carnegie Mellon University, Harvard University, MIT and the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology Zürich, which is home to 21 Nobel Laureates.
At the Disney Research labs, individuals are creating and researching technologies in the areas of robotics, human-computer interaction, computer vision, artificial intelligence, video coding, 3D, human and facial animation, capture technologies, multi-touch and tangible user interfaces, social psychology, environmental science and much more. The labs’ advances are making possible things that once were only imagined.
For example, the audio technology dubbed “Inshin-Den-Shin” is a microphone that can transmit sound through touch. Hard-to-imagine? Check out the incredible invention in this project video.
Another project video shows Disney Research’s work on “Tactile Rendering of 3D Features on Touch Surfaces”. This technology uses an electo-vibration based display to allow users to actually feel the surface and or dimension of what they see on their touch screen.
To see something entirely crazy and too hard to describe, click here, for the labs’ video on “Botanicus Interacticus”.
Have you ever heard of Disney Research? If the opportunity presented itself for you to suggest a technology for one of the labs to bring to life, what would it be?
Kendall began visiting Walt Disney World in 1991 with her family and has continued to visit the resort with her husband. As a child, she and her family filled vacations with challenges such as “How many times can we ride Splash Mountain during SpectroMagic and the fireworks?” (Answer: 7) Now, after marrying a converted Disney skeptic, she and her husband enjoy challenges such as “How many hours can we eat nonstop at the Food & Wine Festival?” (Answer: 4)