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AI is the future but people want authenticity - why can’t we have both?

Updated: Apr 24

Going to the Games Developer Conference in LA straight after a week in Austin for SXSW is, as I discovered last month, the tech equivalent of running two marathons back-to-back. Running to presentations and meetings spread over miles of event space in two very different cities - by the end I wanted to be wrapped in a silver foil blanket and handed a beaker of gatorade. But now I’ve had a chance to decompress, I realise that I witnessed an important moment in time. And that is a tipping point in how the media, tech and games industry sees AI. 



Overlooking the Port of San Francisco


Heading out to the shows, I was expecting wall-to-wall buzz about Gen AI. But what I found on the ground was different. The usual hype was there but it’s no longer landing. Probably the biggest shockwave at SXSW was a thousand strong crowd spontaneously and loudly booing a sizzle reel of speakers’ pronouncements at the show on AI. Josh Constantine, former TechCrunch journalist now VC, pronounced “AI is a culture,” prompting loud derision. “I actually think that AI fundamentally makes us more human,”  said Peter Deng, OpenAI’s VP of consumer product and head of ChatGPT, triggering more heckles and jeers from the audience of - let’s not forget - tech and media industry insiders.  


At GDC, the mood was different.


Like at SXSW the week before, there was lots of discussion about Gen AI. Rather than sweeping statements on AI’s inevitability and infinite creative potential, at GDC there was much more focus on the practical implications of deploying AI - debate on training data, copyright infringement and quality - appropriate to a large and highly complex industry that’s looking to productize a new technology at scale. That said, most of the many Gen AI companies demoing at GDC seemed to me at the early-prototype phase and the audience reception seemed largely sceptical. This will no doubt change as the tech advances - and games companies start figuring out how to deploy at scale. 


One topic that created genuine excitement at both GDC and SXSW was spatial computing - an excitement that’s been brewing for a while and exploded when Apple shook the bottle with the launch of Vision Pro. While the Vision Pro launch hardly mentioned AI at all and focused on AI bywords like spatial computing, machine learning and neural engine instead, AI is the lifeblood running through Vision Pro that makes its mixed reality experiences possible and authentically immersive. The persona feature for example - creating and animating a (fairly) lifelike avatar for the user - leverages AI to do face detection, alignment, recognition, reconstruction, animation and synthesis. But Apple tend to focus on the user experience rather than technology buzzwords. 


In many ways the games industry is the same.


Games developers rarely sell a new title to gamers by leading with the technology advancements in their game - they focus on the gaming experience. That’s what ultimately draws billions of people into gaming. Apple’s Vision Pro was designed from first principles to enable more authentic digital experiences, blending the virtual with the real world in a believable way. In a similar way, the games industry strives to create ever more realistic and immersive experiences for gamers. 


The crowd booing SXSW’s pro-AI video were not, I believe, booing AI per se. After all, there was palpable excitement at the same show about spatial computing and the technology enabling the convergence of media. I think the push back was more about the “technology-first” hyperbole associated with AI, the lack of focus on how to use AI to create authentic audience experiences or how to overcome the realities of AI deployment at scale. 


An artist performing live as volumetric video in a virtual venue

Doc Brown performing live as volumetric video to a virtual audience in Studio 5, powered by Condense


At Condense, we bring authentic live events into virtual worlds for audiences anywhere. We do this using a lot of hardcore AI - or if you prefer Apple’s taxonomy, spatial computing, machine learning and neural networks. We don’t talk that much about the tech on our website. We talk about the audience experience. What it’s like to see and engage with your favourite music artist live, in photo-realistic 3D, within your favourite game or projected in your living room using a mixed reality headset like the Vision Pro.   


New tech unlocks experiences and products that were previously impossible...


...sometimes impossible even to imagine. But that same technology can also disrupt existing industries and of course many people - even industry insiders like the crowds at SXSW - are naturally worried about this. The only way we’re going to navigate AI positively is by figuring out, industry by industry, what this incredibly disruptive new technology can bring to enhance the human experience.


Observing the meteoric rise of Gen AI, it’s my belief that authentic, social and live content made by real humans is going to become more valuable than ever before. I’m proud that Condense is the first company in the world that’s using AI to blend authentic live performances seamlessly into 3D digital spaces and games for audiences to enjoy. With AI making it easier than ever to generate “content” and audiences increasingly hostile to AI hype, media owners, creatives and games developers need to figure out fast how they’re going to make this brave new world feel authentically human. Either that or face a booing crowd. 



With thanks to MyWorld for their support.

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