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  • Mal McCallion

Disney's Magical Journey into AI

Updated: Dec 11, 2023

Disney, the entertainment giant, is sprinkling a little AI magic across its empire. A task force, launched earlier this year, is busy exploring how artificial intelligence can revolutionise every corner of the company, from Walt Disney Studios to its theme parks and advertising team. This move, however, has set the stage for a Hollywood showdown, with writers and actors fearing AI's potential to replace human creativity.

Disney's AI task force is not just exploring in-house applications, but also potential partnerships with startups. The company currently has 11 job openings that seek candidates with AI or machine learning expertise. The roles span across various departments, hinting at the company's ambition to integrate AI into its diverse operations.

For Disney's parks business, AI could enhance customer support and create novel interactions. An example is 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.

However, this AI exploration has sparked controversy in Hollywood. Both the Screen Actors Guild and the Writers Guild of America view AI as a threat to jobs, making it a central issue in their ongoing strike.

Despite the resistance, Disney continues to innovate. The company has a long history of technological innovation, dating back to 1928 with the debut of "Steamboat Willie", the first cartoon with a synchronized soundtrack. More recently, Disney's research group developed "Magic Bench", a mixed-reality technology that allows people to share a space with a virtual character on screen, without special glasses.

Disney's AI exploration has the potential to revolutionise the entertainment industry. However, it also raises important questions about job security and the role of human creativity in an increasingly automated world.

As Disney embarks on this AI adventure, the industry watches with bated breath, waiting to see if this will be a fairytale ending - or a cautionary tale for the use of AI in entertainment.

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