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Mickey Mouse comes to ETH Zurich

ETH Zurich today announced a five-year research and development initiative with The Walt Disney Company in the United States.

The Disney Research lab in Zurich will be one of only two newly-created industrial laboratories worldwide. Its mission will be to conduct basic applied research and share technical resources.

Speaking at the annual SIGGRAPH Conference on Computer Graphics and Interactive Techniques in Los Angeles, California (US), Ed Catmull, president, Disney and Pixar Animation Studios, said "Creating the next generation of sophisticated technologies requires long-term vision and collaboration with world-class innovators."

The Disney Research lab in Zurich will be the only Disney-related laboratory to be located outside of the United States. The second Disney Research lab will be located at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, Penn-sylvania (US). The aim of the two laboratories is to conduct applied research in computer animation, geometric modelling, computational photography, image generation, video processing, artificial intelligence, robotics and related fields.

A nest of creativity

Working to strengthen its commitment to research and development, the laboratory in Zurich will allow Disney to tap into ETH Zurich's extensive talent in sci-ence and technology, specifically in computer animation, computational cinematography, autonomous interactive characters, robotics, and data mining and user interfaces. The partners will each profit respectively from the other's experience as an acknowledged leader in computer graphics and animation. Up to ten senior principal investigators will be engaged over the collaboration's initial five year period. With a total staff of about 20 people, the lab will also engage professors, post docs, consultants, academic collaborators and Disney engineers. Disney Research will open its doors in Zurich in October, and be located at ETH Zurich's main campus in facilities currently under renovation.

Mutual benefits

ETH Zurich Professor Markus Gross, Head of Computer Graphics and the Director of Disney Research in Zurich, is a driving force of the agreement. He said the collaboration presents clear advantages to ETH Zurich, and that "Joint Ph.D projects and research contracts, as well as teaching services from senior Disney researchers will arise from the partnership, in addition to the joint intellectual properties and patents that will result from our research."

Professor Gross noted that access to datasets and archives of Disney artwork, and the opportunities for internships for computer science students represent unparalleled opportunities for technology transfer and new and creative possibilities for success. Visual Computing, with its wide range of applications, builds upon foundations from computer science and applied mathematics to give students the computational expertise to solve large-scale problems in computer graphics, computer vision and artificial intelligence. Disney Research in Zurich will conduct its applied research in close cooperation with ETH Zurich's Department of Computer Science, Visual Computing and the Computer Graphics Laboratory. It is foreseen that faculty and student collaborators from across ETH Zurich disciplines will also be part of collaborative projects with Disney.

Disney Research is of high strategic value to ETH Zurich. Peter Chen, Vice-President Research, called the collaboration "A unique opportunity with enormous potential for all participating parties. To be chosen as the European loca-tion for Disney Research is further proof of ETH Zurich's excellent international reputation and the quality of our research and development, in this case in Information Technology and Visual Computing."

The Disney business units involved in the collaboration are: Disney Animation Studios, Image Movers Digital, Imagineering, Disney Interactive Media Group, ESPN and others. Pixar Animation Studios are the creators of the animated fea-ture films "Toy Story" and "Finding Nemo".

Further information

ETH Zurich
Professor Markus Gross
Department of Computer Science
Computer Graphics Laboratory

Roman Klingler | idw
Further information:

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