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Disney's take on tech-powered stories

News, 27 March 2017

AUSTIN, TX: The Walt Disney Company, the entertainment group, believes technologies like artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning can help it create stories and experiences which deliver unique forms of consumer engagement.

Kathy de Paolo, VP/Engineering at Disney, discussed this subject during a panel session at the 2017 South by Southwest (SXSW) Conference.

And she suggested that artificial intelligence and machine learning are "groundswell technologies" which effectively represent a "new medium for our storytellers" – and will be deployed in service to the company's creative minds. (For more, read Warc's exclusive report: Disney mixes storytelling and cutting-edge tech.)

"We always like to say at Disney, 'Technology is in service of the story'. If we do our jobs right, you shouldn't see the tech at all – you should just be having the experience," she said.

More specifically, de Paolo reported that these solutions have the "potential to bring our guests closer to our characters, and enable interactions with our characters in new and exciting ways".

Translating that theory into practice could involve anything from introducing autonomous robots in Disney's theme parks to building mobile games that offer new levels depending on the player's individual skills.

"There's a huge challenge in making sure that [the] experience you have in the park is absolutely 100% perfect every time for every guest – and then a different set of challenges when you look at taking that out in the wild into these completely uncontrolled environments," said de Paolo.

"I think one of the most powerful things, as we think about our storytelling, is the emotional connections that our guests want with our stories and with the characters. So, as we talk about extending that experience outside the park, it's really allowing that emotional connection to continue.

"And we can do that in ways that are allowing ongoing interactions with the characters and our guests – and bringing that to life wherever they are, as opposed to needing to be in the theatre, or watching a movie, or what have you. We can look at starting to make that more accessible and ubiquitous to our guests."

The company is also exploring ways in which AI and machine learning can have an impact behind the scenes, and so maximise the time its storytellers are able to spend on formulating compelling narratives and experiences.

"Every business [unit], at the moment, is taking a look at what machine learning means for their operations and which things can become more efficient: The game development aspect, the whole content-pipeline development," de Paolo said.

"The things that are time-consuming and not the best use of our creatives' time are definitely areas where we're looking to be able to do optimisation."

Data sourced from Warc