The Walt Disney Company has assembled an AI task force to evaluate the future use of Artificial Intelligence in movies, theme parks, and more, according to Reuters.
Disney AI Task Force
Reuters notes that the task force was formed before the Writers’ Guild of America went on strike, partially due to the use of AI technology.
The company is seeking to hire 11 AI-related roles, including inside Walt Disney Imagineering. They are also aiming to use the advertising team to create a “next-generation” AI-powered ad system. Former Disney CEO Bob Chapek used to refer to their explorations into Metaverse/Virtual Reality as “next-gen storytelling.” The team was disbanded shortly after Chapek was replaced.
For its parks business, AI could enhance customer support or create novel interactions, said the second source, as well as a former Disney Imagineer, who declined to be identified by Reteurs because he was not authorized to speak publicly. The former Imagineer pointed to Project Kiwi, which used machine-learning techniques to create Baby Groot, a small, free-roaming robot that mimics the “Guardians of the Galaxy” character’s movements and personality.
“Project KIWI started about three years ago to figure out how we can bring our smaller characters to life at their actual scale in authentic ways,” R&D Imagineer Scott LaValley said. “It’s an exciting time for bipedal robotics and with an incredible team and our combination of technology, artistry, and magic, we are bringing characters to life that could not have happened anywhere but Disney.”
Project Kiwi’s Baby Groot underwent playtesting at Disneyland Resort earlier this year.
Notably, Disney Imagineering forayed into AI in 2022 with D3-O9, the AI concierge droid on the Star Wars: Galactic Starcruiser. The technology was still in playtest mode, and the Galactic Starcruiser will be closing permanently this September.
When speaking of artificial intelligence, Dawson Dill, senior R&D Walt Disney Imagineer and creative lead for D3-O9, said, “I think Imagineering, traditionally and ever and forever, has always been looking at cool new ways to elevate things,” Dill said. “I think that we see an opportunity with some of this technology to make more personalized connections and have ones that are more also connected to an evolving story. So as you see, more and more immersive storytelling like Galactic Starcruiser, having characters that take different forms and want to engage in those same persistent ways, you’re going to need a platform like this.”
“At the Imagineering R&D group, we’ve been working on this platform, and D3-O9 is definitely the first, the limited play test to really put this out there for the first time. But the hope is that this is a platform that we think it can bring a lot of different Disney characters of life in different ways, on different mediums and different platforms. It’s been a long road to get here. We’ve been looking at a lot of this for a while, but this is sort of the first big stepping stone that we’ve put out in the water.”
Watch our video of D3-O9 in action below, and click here for more information about the technology.