Disney Accelerator Program Nurtures Data-Centric Solutions

Disney is carefully tracking and nurturing future technologies for children via an annual accelerator program it runs with partner Techstars. The program awards $120,000 to 10 startups, which also work with Disney executives for three months. The potential prize at the end is that Disney and Techstars may take a stake in one or more of the startups whose technologies are the most interesting and, one imagines, capable of commercialization. This year, approximately half of the companies chosen are involved in data.

The New York Times reports that this year’s program drew 2,000 applications. Techstars, which organizes accelerator programs around the world, narrowed the list to 50 and then Disney picked the 10 it found most interesting. Disney chief strategy officer Kevin Mayer oversees Disney Accelerator; Techstars co-founder David Cohen is in charge of his company’s work on the program.

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Among the data-centric companies chosen this year, Emotiv uses neuroscience and futuristic headgear to measure emotions in real time and allow users to move objects with their thoughts; Decisive collects information from social media to issue a real-time score on how consumers respond to products; and Imperson lets fans chat with cartoon characters using artificial intelligence.

Of the companies already working with Disney, Open Bionics creates low-cost bionic hands (“Iron Man” and “Frozen” versions are on their way via a royalty-free license) for amputees; StatMuse helps fans – and soon Disney company ESPN – search sports data and visualize it; and Sphero creates a smartphone-controlled robotic ball.

Sphero scored a contract to make toys based on the new “Star Wars” droid BB-8, and says chief executive Paul Berberian, sold out its worldwide inventory in a few hours.