How Machine Learning and VR/AR will disrupt the Media and Entertainment Industry
Man, it just happened again.
And there is a good chance that it’s probably happening to you right now: walking along a familiar path you suddenly don’t have a recollection of the last few minutes. It happens all the time when we’re focused on something. The "zombie state", as it is known, happens even when we drive. Which is incredible, if you think about it: you can get lost in thought, and still carry out a difficult task such as driving.
Focusing on a smartphone, and ignoring the surrounding environment is very common. Technology allows us to extend our minds, and connect to people and knowledge hardly attainable with physical means. Internet devices allow us to create our own alternate reality.
Virtual and Augmented Reality will create even stronger alternate realities. We will be able to immerse ourself in stories and adventures that wouldn't be feasible or practical in real life. We will walk even more distractedly.
As a smartphone needs apps, also VR needs content. Who will provide it? Apps can take months to develop, and AAA videogames can even take years, and millions to create. Will the system keep up with the demand?
Maybe, or maybe not, but it doesn't matter because technology is disrupting content creation.
Enter Machine Creativity
To generate creative content, 3 paths are possible:
Making unfamiliar combinations of familiar ideas.
Explore a structured conceptual space.
(Radically) transforming one’s structured conceptual space.
Machine Learning is already capable of the first 2. Transformation will come.
There are still some limitations, and the quality is not yet on par, but give it 5 years and even machine content creation will have super-human capabilities, that is, it will be undistinguishable from human grand masters.
This means that the news we follow, the music we'll listen to, the books we’ll read —oh, the poetry! I wanted to live deep and suck all the marrow of life—, the paintings we'll admire, the food we’ll eat, the video games we'll play, the fonts we’ll use, the movies we will watch, everything will be potentially made by Creative Machines.
Is an odd thought. It creates dissonance because we're used to have the monopoly on the creative process. What we will maintain — at least in the foreseeable future— is the monopoly on good taste and interpretation. It is also likely that true artists will remain and outperform machines. However, for 99% of the content that kind of human ability won't be necessary. And our taste will guide the machines in the creation of better and better content.
In Virtual and Augmented Reality in particular, the way it will work is enticing: We'll describe the theme, and give some directions (like which of our friends to include), and realities will be created on demand.
A direct consequence of Machine Content Creation is that the cost of content creation will drop dramatically, which is very democratising on one side, but very disrupting on the other. Many jobs and even entire industries will be lost [If you’re a media company and this is news to you, we should talk]. New economic models for society will be needed, like universal basic income.
What is interesting though, is the combination of personalised content on demand and its pervasiveness through Virtual and Augmented Reality. The high availability will move personalised content beyond our free time and transform our daily behavior and attitude. Imagine a dull job, something that sounded better on paper (ask any PhD student in cancer research) or something repetitive for which the industry hasn't yet found the economics for robotisation (ubiquitous robotics will undoubtedly take longer than machine content creation, simply because software is much faster), like soldering a connector on a dual flex-PCB. Now add an augmented reality visor that adds any kind of content on top of the task. It could be a game, transforming the soldering into a surgery with tiny assistants. It could be a book, with pages revealing at each step of the soldering. Personalised Machine Content Creation could place the PCB on a lawn next to the ocean, relaxing the task, while a good friend reads a story. Any task can be richer, educating and entertaining us along the way.
Sounds like the Matrix? Somewhat, but it's different because you can easily unplug yourself. Are there dangers along the way? Certainly, and likely higher but more tractable than the rise of super-intelligent AI (e.g., you don't want the content creation to be manipulated with targeted ads). The opportunity however to improve the Human Condition by immersively raising awareness and through continuous education is important, and unavoidable. The benefits beyond healthier and more balanced living are the possibility and economic need for us to keep on pushing the boundaries of knowledge and experience. All while enjoying collective imaginations in future social networks.