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Head of Disney's Cambridge research lab departs

Posted by Scott Kirsner  May 30, 2012 10:57 AM

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Joe Marks, who last year helped set up a new R&D lab for the Walt Disney Company in Cambridge, has left the company to work on a new startup.

Marks tells me the East Cambridge facility will remain open. The Disney web site lists three employees and a consultant as working there (in addition to Marks, whose picture hasn't yet been removed.)

But one of those employees, Amber Brown, is joining Marks at his new venture, Upfront Analytics. The company will be based in Dublin, Ireland. It's in stealth mode, with no web site yet. (Marks, who ran a Mitsubishi R&D lab in Cambridge before joining Disney, grew up in Ireland, and he also set up a Disney research lab there.)

Among the projects Disney has been working on in Cambridge are 3-D printing of large objects; tracking mentions of Disney in the blogosphere; delivering "a Disney cinema experience to the developing world in a way that makes economic sense"; and supplying information via mobile devices to help theme park visitors steer clear of crowded areas.

I've contacted Disney by phone or e-mail to inquire about the future of the Cambridge facility, and whether a new chief has been chosen yet, but haven't heard back. When I visited the lab last Friday, no one answered the door.

Update: a Disney spokesperson informs me that Jessica Hodgins is now overseeing the Disney lab in Cambridge. Based in Pittsburgh, she also oversees Disney labs there and in California.

Update #2: Jonathan Yedidia informs me by e-mail that he's the only senior researcher currently working at the Cambridge lab, but that the staff includes "a junior researcher, three professor consultants who visit regularly, four post-docs (three hired and starting soon, one in the process of finishing the hire), and seven lab associates." (Lab associates are paid interns who usually stick around for anywhere from three months to a year. The professor consultants he mentions are Hanspeter Pfister of Harvard, Wojciech Matusik of MIT, and Marc Alexa of the Technical University of Berlin.)

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Innovation and technology news that matters, on a new website from the Boston Globe, featuring Scott Kirsner and other original reporting.

About Scott Kirsner

Scott Kirsner was part of the team that launched in 1995, and has been writing a column for the Globe since 2000. His work has also appeared in Wired, Fast Company, The New York Times, BusinessWeek, Newsweek, and Variety. Scott is also the author of the books "Fans, Friends & Followers" and "Inventing the Movies," was the editor of "The Convergence Guide: Life Sciences in New England," and was a contributor to "The Good City: Writers Explore 21st Century Boston." Scott also helps organize several local events on entrepreneurship, including the Nantucket Conference and Future Forward. Here's some background on how Scott decides what to cover, and how to pitch him a story idea.

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