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AI-Driven Dynamic Filmmaking is the Future

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In a simulation, driven by simple rules, we meet artificially intelligent creatures, called “Agents” who live on their planet, cooperating to survive. That is until you arrive with the power to maintain the balance of their peaceful existence, or, you can throw them into a state of chaos. The choice is yours, what will you do with the responsibility of your agency?

Agence (from Transitional Forms and the National Film Board of Canada) is an experience that uses real-time technology, artificial intelligence (Reinforcement Learning) and user agency to craft a story that is never the same twice. Through collaborative authorship, we are able to drive emergent behaviour and storytelling with each viewing, which we’ve coined as a “Dynamic Film”.

What is a Dynamic Film?

One of the most incredible notions we can attribute to storytelling is that it is ultimately responsible for shaping human history. Over time, we have developed empathy and compassion around being able to interpret the world from another’s point of view. A Dynamic Film is an experience that puts the user at the centre of a powerful story and lets them affect it in realtime.

Isn’t that a videogame? Well, yes, but no. Yes, it certainly sounds like a videogame in nature in terms of interactivity, immersion, and real-time decisions, but the objective is different. Games are often rooted in goals, points or achievements. That isn’t to say they don’t have a story, but too often their goal is not to craft, or discover a narrative.

As a filmmaker who grew up on videogames, I can say, there is a deeply rooted, cultural foundation, that games need goals. So, when we’re trying to tell an immersive story, the natural trajectory of audience expectation trends heavily in the direction of achievements. However, a Dynamic Film such as Agence, allows users to interact with emergent narrative without the consequence of winning, failure, progress or defeat. It creates a path to great storytelling with unique outcomes from every interaction. Certainly, videogames are built upon a story as much as any other medium, but we’re taking a much more filmic angle to this definition.

With dynamic media, even if the choices are nuanced and subtle, we are (in part) putting an onus on the individual for what kind of content they will create. As this medium becomes more and more sophisticated, I believe that media will not be a one-way street, it will be an interrelated, interdependent dance between user and algorithm, turning what we now call films and games, into real, living simulations. This will help society grasp the power of each other’s creativity and imaginations, and harness a better future using audience agency.

Crucial to Dynamic Filmmaking is three-way authorship, which allows for humans and intelligent machines to shape each other’s experiences. The narrative is crafted by three parties: 1) the filmmakers, who establish the narrative structure and environment, 2) intelligent “Agents,” using reinforcement learning or scripted (hierarchical state machines) AI, and 3) the viewer, who can interact with the system to affect the simulation. Through collaborative authorship, we can drive emergent behaviour and storytelling with each viewing, creating endless possibilities for narratives to rise to the surface.

The Intersection of VR and Dynamic Filmmaking

Virtual Reality adds an additional dimension to Dynamic Filmmaking, as it takes you one step closer to a possible reality you can immerse yourself in, and gives us the power to experience what the world might be like in someone else’s shoes. With Agence, we provide the user with the opportunity to understand the responsibility of their own agency. Users become self-reflexive and even emotional at times when an Agent falls off the planet into the nexus below. It’s hard to predict what you will feel as each action and reaction is unique.

We use two types of AI to drive the behaviour of our Agents: Game AI, programmed through heuristic functions, and Reinforcement Learning AI, where neural network “brains” are developed to think autonomously. Outside of the experience, tech-savvy collaborators can actually train Reinforcement Learning brains with resources from our website… any brains submitted will be reviewed with a chance to be featured in the film!

Looking Ahead

I believe that the merging of Dynamic Film with virtual reality experiences will allow us to be closer as a species through rich storytelling. So, in essence, when I think of why Dynamic Filmmaking and VR matters, it really comes down to why the story matters. This new medium allows us to share the same dimensional space as the virtual beings we create, to observe and empathize with these artificially intelligent creatures in ways that previously weren’t possible. In that sense, I believe dynamic stories will allow humans to understand what it means to be machine, and machines what it means to be human.

The classic rule for futurism, as far as we’re concerned, is to identify patterns in the past that can help predict and/or shape the future. In this case, we wanted to push storytelling forward using more advance artificial intelligence (AI), and we looked to the earliest days of silent films (before dialogue was possible) for inspiration. So, there is a focus on visual storytelling to create algorithms that drive the character behaviour. By emphasizing visual storytelling in projects, we can narrow in on the physical behaviours of AI characters. Looking ahead to the future of Dynamic Filmmaking, we hope to build upon this foundation by adding more dynamics for script, music, and speech generation.

Dynamic Films take the audience on a journey through branching pathways, toward a moment of inner change, making them see the world a little differently than before they began. Games, without a story, do not necessarily move people to transformation outside of winning, losing or simply playing the game perpetually. But stories, particularly the dynamic kind, have the power to influence culture and shape a hopeful future.

Source: https://www.vrfocus.com/2020/10/ai-driven-dynamic-filmmaking-is-the-future/

AR/VR

XRI Launches Survey Examining Diversity & Inclusion Within XR Industry

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Just like any other industry, XR needs to be a diverse and inclusive place for everyone, but that can vary wildly based on a number of factors. So a new initiative called XR Inclusion (XRI) led by industry professionals has launched a survey to collate data from across the globe alongside a startup kit to help companies reduce discrimination and inequity.

For the survey and startup kit XRI has partnered with experts like Stacey Gordon, CEO of Rework Work and Kristen Nesbit, from national labour and employment law firm Fisher Phillips. Together with XRI’s global members, the free XR Startup Kit offers checklists, templates and training focused on vital business areas such as job descriptions, hiring, unconscious bias, code of conduct, safe channels of communication and much more.

While the kit can help new businesses, the XRI wants professionals to take part in its free, anonymous survey, to help give a clearer view of the ecosystem at present. Thus helping highlight where it’s doing well and where improvements can be made.

“With startups, there is typically less structure, less awareness around inclusive processes and biases, and less red tape in general,” said Gordon in a statement. “By taking an active approach to creating diverse and inclusive company cultures from the start,  barriers to progress can be reduced and business performance can flourish, which makes the startup stage a perfect time to not only do what is right on a human level, but also to do what is best for the long term success of the business.” 

“As a founder in XR, I wish I’d learned the things in this kit sooner,” said Taylor Freeman, a founding council member of XRI. “Our goal at XRI is to provide startups with resources and systems to support the development of inclusive, professional and safe cultures for both the employees and the company. These foundations should be essential and I believe investors shouldn’t even fund companies without ensuring they have these things in place.”

Tackling diversity and inclusion is vital for any company large or small, wherever they are in the world. When details of the report are made publicly available, VRFocus will let you know.

Source: https://www.vrfocus.com/2020/11/xri-launches-survey-examining-diversity-inclusion-within-xr-industry/

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The VR Game Launch Roundup: Breaking out the Big Guns

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As it’s Black Friday you might be more interested in what deals are to be had today but don’t spend all your money. Next week a new selection of virtual reality (VR) titles are on their way, set to provide varied gameplay experiences.

Shuttle Commander – Immersive VR Education

Originally slated for release last week, Shuttle Commander is an educational title where you command NASA’s Space Shuttle taking it on various missions to the Hubble Space Telescope. Part physics-based flight simulator you will need to land it at a number of real-world locations, such as Kennedy Space Centre, White Sands Air Force Base and Edwards Air Force Base.

Frostpoint VR: Proving Grounds – inXile Entertainment

A team-based multiplayer shooter from the studio behind The Mage’s Tale, Frostpoint VR: Proving Grounds offers 10 vs 10 tactical battles across an abandoned military base in Antarctica. With realistic weapon physics, both teams also have to tackle an alien race of biomechanical creatures who are gunning for everyone.

Project Wingman – Sector D2

A dogfighting experience which is geared towards action rather than a full-blown simulator, Project Wingman has over 20 different aircraft and 40+ weapons to swap between. For those who love to immerse themselves in flight combat videogames, Project Wingman supports HOTAS peripherals.

Prison Boss VR – Trebuchet

Trebuchet’s comedic take on becoming the boss of a prison originally came to PC VR headsets back in 2017, and now it gets the Oculus Quest treatment. Craft and trade with the other inmates to improve your living conditions whilst upping your reputation, just don’t get caught by the guards.

  • Supported platforms: Oculus Quest
  • Launch date: 3rd December

ALTDEUS: Beyond Chronos – MyDearest Inc.

The sequel to Tokyo Chronos, ALTDEUS: Beyond Chronos takes place 300 years later where humans are hiding underground from deadly creatures known as Meteora. Part comic, part interactive experience, you’ll be able to pilot giant mechs whilst trying to unravel the mysteries of these beasts.

Source: https://www.vrfocus.com/2020/11/the-vr-game-launch-roundup-breaking-out-the-big-guns/

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All the Best VR Deals for Black Friday 2020

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Retailers began their Black Friday deals at the start of the week but now its the big day itself, where all the limited-time deals come together for a bonanza of savings (hopefully). Virtual reality (VR) fans can get in on the action too, albeit more on the software side than the hardware for 2020. So here’s VRFocus’ roundup of the best deals available online.

Headsets

When it comes to headsets you might be hoping to pick up an Oculus Quest 2 or HP Reverb G2 a little cheaper. Alas, they’re way too new to be discounted during this sales season, even the Valve Index from 2019 isn’t discounted anywhere that VRFocus could find.

Whilst it’s not a Black Friday deal for those after an Oculus Quest 2 currently any purchase until 31st Jan will include PC title Asgard’s Wrath for free.

HTC Vive – UK

  • Vive Cosmos – Now £599 (previously £699)
  • Vive Cosmos Elite – Now £799 (previously £899) + Half-Life: Alyx free
  • Vive Cosmos Elite (HMD only) – Now £449 (previously £549) + Half-Life: Alyx free
  • AORUS 15G Cosmos Bundle, now £2,289 (originally £2,549)
  • AORUS 15G Cosmos Elite Bundle, now £2,459 (originally £2,749)

HTC Vive – US

  • Vive Cosmos – Now $599 (previously $699) + 2 Months Viveport Infinity
  • Vive Cosmos Elite – Now $799 (previously $899) + 2 Months Viveport Infinity
  • Vive Cosmos Elite (HMD only) – Now $449 (previously $549) + 2 Months Viveport Infinity

PlayStation VR

Games

If you’ve already got a VR headset then it’s software you’ll be after and this is where most of the deals can be found. Oculus Store, PlayStation Store and Steam all have various discounts going on, plus there are some physical deals to be had on PlayStation videogames.

Oculus Store

  • PlayStation VR
    • Physical
      • Marvel’s Iron Man VR – £19.99 – Smyths (check local stock)
      • Blood & Truth- £14.99 – Smyths (check local stock)
      • Blood & Truth- £15.99 – Amazon
      • Star Wars: Squadrons – £19.99 – Amazon
      • The Walking Dead Onslaught – £24.99 – GAME
  • SteamVR – Autumn Sale

Accessories

  • Cybershoes – PC VR
  • Kat Walk C

Source: https://www.vrfocus.com/2020/11/all-the-best-vr-deals-for-black-friday-2020/

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A Wake Inn Pulls Those Trailer Strings Ahead of a 2021 Release

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There were plenty of virtual reality (VR) titles announced during the week that would normally have been the Electronic Entertainment Expo (E3), VR Bros’ A Wake Inn being one of them. An immersive horror experience originally slated for this year, the team has just released a new trailer moving the launch to early 2021.

A Wake Inn is a scary title featuring a classic horror staple, mannequins, those lifeless, dead-eyed entities which work so well at terrifying almost everyone. The twist here is that not only is the art deco hotel where the gameplay is set filled with an army of living dolls, you also happen to be one. And then there’s the mysterious Doctor Finnegan, owner of the estate who talks to you via a shortwave transmitter.

The story revolves around you finding out who you are, how you ended up here, and how to get out whilst avoiding the other not so friendly dolls. As VR Bros puts it: “Is it time for the player to take revenge on their maker and set themselves free, or perhaps they’re just a puppet being pulled by its strings?”

In a similar fashion to Last Labyrinth, you’re bound to a wheelchair, making A Wake Inn an entirely seated experience. That’s where the similarity ends, as in this experience you’re given free rein to explore the hotel and figure out its various escape room-style gameplay elements. You operate it just as you would any manual wheelchair, moving the controllers as if pushing the wheels.

Further thought has been put into the gameplay interactions as well, a flashlight for lighting up the darkness which does run out of batteries, a radio with custom stations, and the cinema room where you can watch tapes found around the building.

A Wake Inn will support HTC Vive, Oculus Rift and Valve Index when it launches next year. For further updates on this wheeled horror, keep reading VRFocus.

Source: https://www.vrfocus.com/2020/11/a-wake-inn-pulls-those-trailer-strings-ahead-of-a-2021-release/

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