Machine Learning Times
Machine Learning Times

8 months ago
A VR Film/Game with AI Characters Can Be Different Every Time You Watch or Play

Originally posted in MIT Techonology Review, Oct 2, 2020.

Agence is neither a movie nor a game, which has frustrated some critics, but it gives a taste of what the future of AI filmmaking could be.

The square-faced, three-legged alien shoves and jostles to get at the enormous plant taking over its tiny planet. But each bite just makes the forbidden fruit grow bigger. Suddenly the plant’s weight flips the whole sphere upside down and all the little creatures drop into space.

Quick! Reach in and catch one!

Agence, a short interactive VR film from Toronto-based studio Transitional Forms and the National Film Board of Canada, won’t be breaking any box office records. Falling somewhere in the no-man’s-land between movies and video games, it may struggle to find an audience at all. But as the first example of a film that uses reinforcement learning to control its animated characters, it could be a glimpse into the future of filmmaking.

“I am super passionate about artificial intelligence because I believe that AI and movies belong together,” says the film’s director, Pietro Gagliano.

Gagliano previously won the first-ever Emmy for a VR experience in 2015. Now he and producer David Oppenheim at the National Film Board of Canada are experimenting with a kind of storytelling they call dynamic film. “We see Agence as a sort of silent-era dynamic film,” says Oppenheim. “It’s a beginning, not a blockbuster.”

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