Carnegie Mellon University

Disney Research Lab

Entertainment Technology: The Disney Research Lab, Pittsburgh

Disney Research, Pittsburgh, is a laboratory that engages the top talent of the entertainment industry's premier fantasy maker and enables collaborations with the Carnegie Mellon’s unparalleled computer science and fine arts resources.

Disney The lab conducts research and development that supports innovation throughout the Walt Disney Company, including theme parks, sports television and movie studios. Under the direction of Jessica Hodgins, who is also a Carnegie Mellon professor of computer science and robotics, Disney researchers explore areas such as computer animation, virtual reality, computational cinematography, autonomous interactive characters, robotics, data mining and user interfaces.

"The access Disney provides to real-world problems and data will enable us to do research with greater impact than is typically possible within a purely academic environment," said Hodgins. "At the same time, Disney Research in Pittsburgh can tap expertise at Carnegie Mellon that can be applied to problems that cut across all of Disney's business units."

Disney's decision to locate its lab on Carnegie Mellon's campus is testament to the university's strengths in computer science, robotics, human-computer interaction (HCI), speech understanding, computer vision and machine learning. What's more, the university has been a pioneer in entertainment technology, with the School of Computer Science and College of Fine Arts establishing the Entertainment Technology Center (ETC) in 1998.  The  ETC attracts the best artists and computer scientists who work together to create a unique educational experience.

Disney has been a strong supporter of the center since its inception. In addition to an established internship program with Walt Disney Imagineering, ETC students have created a collection of arcade games for Disney's Spaceship Earth attraction at Epcot Center.

"Creating the next-generation of sophisticated technologies requires long-term vision and collaboration with world-class innovators," said Ed Catmull, president, Disney and Pixar Animation Studios. "We are strengthening our commitment to R&D throughout Disney by establishing [a lab] at Carnegie Mellon University."

Carnegie Mellon’s original campus design is said to have been modeled after a ship by the campus’s initial architect Henry Hornbostel. An actual ship's prow taken from the historic cruiser, the USS Pennsylvania, rests atop Roberts Hall, which overlooks Panther Hollow and the Carnegie Museum complex.

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