Disney is funding AI for fictional characters, 3D-printed bionic hands and gadget mind control

Disney is funding AI for fictional characters, 3D-printed bionic hands and gadget mind control

Disney has announced the participants in its second accelerator program.

They include companies working on 3D-printing bionic hands, controlling technology with brain waves and using AI to let you talk to your favorite characters.

The Disney Accelerator is run by Techstars and hosts 10 companies, who’ll take part in a three-month mentorship and investment process, leading up to a demo day on October 6.

Emotiv, a bioinformatics company, which is experimenting with electroencephalography (EEG) as a means of controlling virtual and physical objects with your mind, as well as monitoring emotions, is part of the group.


The 3D-printing world is covered by Open Bionics, which is building affordable 3D-printed bionic hands and London startup MakieLab, designers of customizable dolls, enabled by games and apps.

In terms of AI, the program has two interesting entrants – Imperson, which is working on ways for fans to have conversations with movie and TV characters, and StatMuse, a platform for offering sports data using natural language processing.

Screenshot 2015-07-09 11.03.26
What Imperson promises to deliver…

Littlstar is trying to aggregate VR content and provide a place to distribute and discover it. Pundit, whose app I’ve tried and wasn’t initially wowed by, lets people host audio Ask Me Anything (AMA) sessions via Twitter.

This year’s intake is completed by a trio of advertising startups:

  • Decisive (a real-time data company focused on optimizing mobile ads and user targeting)
  • FEM Inc. (aiming to use neuroscience to measure emotional resonance)
  • HYP3R (real-time influencer targeting based on location)

The participants will receive up to $120,000 in investment from Disney to develop their ideas, along with mentoring from executives. They’ll include the company’s Chairman and CEO Robert ‘Bob’ Iger and leaders from Pixar, Marvel and Lucasfilm.

Though accelerators can sometimes seem a little disconnected from the actual business aims of their corporate patrons, a good number of last year’s class have worked on projects connected to Disney’s wider business.

Choremonster integrated characters from Disney/Pixar’s ‘Inside Out’ within its app. Naritiv produced a Snapchat campaign for ABC Family’s ‘Pretty Little Liars.’ App creator TYFFON developed the Show Your Disney Side app for Walt Disney Parks and Resorts. 

Meanwhile, robotics company Sphero is now building an official toy based on the rolling BB-8 droid featured in ‘Star Wars: The Force Awakens.’ 


The spread of startups in this year’s accelerator makes sense. Disney has been heavily involved in robotics in both film and theme park projects for years.

Similarly, AI has obvious applications across its businesses, while advertising is bread and butter stuff for a massive media company.

I’ll be interested to see how this year’s intake end up integrated into the mouse house’s overall strategy.

Disney Accelerator [Disney]

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