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Disney Is Using Facial Recognition Technology To Predict Audience Reactions

Marisa Winckowski August 8, 2017 August 8th, 2017

As if Disney wasn’t already one of the most powerful conglomerates on planet earth, they have been working on artificial intelligence algorithms to predict how you’ll feel about different parts of Disney movies.

The algorithm is called “Factorized Variational Autoencoders”, or FVAE. And it’s so sharp and precise that after studying one audience member’s face for only 10 minutes, it is able to predict their reactions to the rest of the film.

“The FVAEs were able to learn concepts such as smiling and laughing on their own,”  said Zhiwei Deng, a lab associate at Disney Research.

The researchers then compare the data between viewers and the filmmaker’s intentions: if you were supposed to laugh at a scene but instead were caught yawning, that’s something the researchers will make a note of.

To collect this data, Disney used a 400-seat theatre with 4 infrared cameras to film the audience during screenings of several more recent and popular Disney films- Star Wars: The Force Awakens, Zootopia, Big Hero 6, The Jungle Book and Inside Out. The data that resulted was over 16 million facial landmarks, which was then sent to the neural network.

This isn’t just a big deal for Disney, but a big deal for the future of AIs in general. When bots can read and understand the emotions of others the same way humans do, who knows what else they will be capable of?

Is this cool or creepy? Probably both. But I, for one, welcome the election of our new leader: