Federal Councillor Berset visits the Disney lab

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ETH President Lino Guzzella welcomes Alain Berset at the Disney Research 
ETH President Lino Guzzella welcomes Alain Berset at the Disney Research Cinema. (Image: ETH Zurich / Manuel Lopez)
Federal Councillor Alain Berset was invited by Lino Guzzella to visit ETH Zurich on Friday. Berset seemed very impressed by what he saw at the Disney Research Zurich research laboratory.

Yesterday’s visit by the head of the Federal Department of Home Affairs reflected the many close ties between science, technology and culture. ETH President Lino Guzzella, along with Sarah Springman, Ulrich Weidmann and Robert Perich, welcomed their guest to the Disney Research Zurich (DRZ) research laboratory, which offered a fitting backdrop as an intersection of these three areas.

Culture inspired by science

Guzzella used his opening remarks to emphasise the increasing importance of digitalisation, even for art and culture. He gave a number of architectural examples to show how innovative technology can create a greater range of opportunities and enable a new building culture, explaining that science and culture are not opposites but rather two mutually beneficial ways of expressing creativity.

The technology behind the magic

Markus Gross, Professor of Computer Science at ETH Zurich and Founding Director of DRZ, discussed the close cooperation with ETH Zurich and presented some projects from the Zurich-based computer scientists. The technology they have been developing has already been successfully used in a number of Disney films. The lab was founded in 2008 and is home to more than 100 scientists, including around 20 doctoral students, who work on the digital future of media and entertainment. ‘Disney Research is an example of university and industry working together for the benefit of both,’ says Gross.

Doctoral student Pascal Bérard gave a presentation on the digital capture and modelling of human faces and eyes, demonstrating the complexity of the science behind the technology created at DRZ. The same was true of the playful and poetic flying robots presented by Markus Hehn of Verity Studios. Verity Studios, an ETH spin-off, developed dancing drones for use by Cirque du Soleil in a Broadway show.

Using opportunities responsibly

Bob Summer, Adjunct Professor and Head of the ETH Game Technology Center, introduced the concept of augmented creativity, using various apps that add a virtual dimension to classic children’s books.

Alain Berset seemed interested in and impressed by the work of the ETH researchers, stating that the rapid development in areas such as artificial intelligence and robotics not only opens up fascinating new opportunities, but also raises the question of how the state, society and politics can make use of this development. All those involved in the conversation agreed that such new technologies can offer enormous benefits when used responsibly.

Federal Councillor Berset visited ETH Zurich on Friday. He seemed impressed by what he saw at the Disney Research Zurich research laboratory.