Zurich researchers win Sci-Tech Oscar

Zurich - In conjunction with Disney Research Studios in Zurich researchers from ETH Zurich have developed a method for breathing new, more realistic looking life into animated figures. They have now been presented with the Sci-Tech Oscar in Hollywood.

Four researchers from the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology Zurich (ETH) and Disney Research Studios in Zurich are behind the capturing system Medusa. The Medusa system uses scanners to record facial movements and then renders them into dense animated grids (meshes), breathing new, more realistic looking life into animated figures, for instance.

According to a press release by the ETH, the researchers – Bernd Bickel, Thabo Beeler, Derek Bradley and Markus Gross – had the honor of receiving the Sci-Tech Oscar in Hollywood on Saturday. “[Medusa is] pushing the boundaries of visual fidelity and productivity for character facial performances in motion pictures,” the Academy of Motion Pictures noted. According to Beeler, the Oscar is the “top award in our field, after all.”

In recent years, Medusa has been used in over a dozen productions, including Avengers: Infinity War, Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales, Star Wars: The Last Jedi, and Spider-Man: Homecoming.

The Disney Research Studios are the only place where the US media corporation actively carries out research and development outside the United States. It works closely with the ETH. For Markus Gross, Director of Disney Research Studios in Zurich and “Grandfather” of Medusa, the new capturing system is a great example of the partnership between ETH and Disney.

Gross is celebrating his second Oscar. His team won its first Oscar for its Wavelet Turbulence software, which is used for low-cost visual renderings of explosions, smoke, and liquids.

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