“Is this the real life? Is this just fantasy?” once sang Freddie Mercury, now we say; “Alexa play Bohemian Rhapsody.”
“Prior to the age of electricity, only real experience was possible. However, during the twentieth century, the public has become accustomed to an information environment of real experience intermixed with absolutely unreal, synthetic experience.” (How Synthetic Experience Shapes Social Reality, 1990, p.60) During the 90s with non-existing complex algorithms to create digital experiences, the only concern was the media and TV and how “experts” were transforming the nature of events through formats, such as, shifting points of view via cameras and lenses, cutting from a scene to another, altering speeds of movements, etc.
Although the intermix is referred to be similar in definition, in today’s digital world the impacts of it are much greater and the question is far away from shifting views only with the help of a zoom.
According to Fjord’s, a global design and innovation consultancy, 2019 trend report, there is a new kind of “reality” on the block; “Well, hello MR (Mixed Reality).” – Producing new visualizations where physical and digital objects co-exist and interact in real time, in other words, it is a mixture of reality and virtual reality.
We live in an era of mixed reality. In the very near past, this meant accessing other versions of reality (virtual or reality) through headsets or screens. Last year, synthetic reality, mostly created through AI (Artificial Intelligence), brought new heights of sophistication into our lives, which also brought serious concerns related to security threats. However, the creative potential of synthetic reality to explore new paths in brand communication and how it potentially can pave the way in our daily lives through intermixed experiences cannot be neglected.
Talking about paving the way…
Google presented its Google Duplex technology where a Google assistant makes a synthetic voice phone call to book a hair appointment. This generated a high volume of interest because Google was able to nail how naturally AI can interact with a human, even leaving a casual “mm-hmm” into the conversation.
Some other positive applications across entertainment, mobility, security, automation, healthcare, art and design can be found. Here come some eye-catching examples;
A small number of actors are digitally preserving themselves to continue their careers even after they are dead.
They scan themselves so that a holographic version of him/her can be present to keep contributing to the industry. However, according to Supasorn Suwajanakorn, a tech researcher, even scanning will not be needed in the very near future. During his TED talk on April 2018, Suwajanakorn presented a very interesting project that he is currently working on. He demonstrated how it is possible to build a model of a person in digital by using the existing photos and videos of her/him and pointed out that if you have access to this technology and material you can possibly model anyone. Although this might raise questions related to security in case of potential misuse, wouldn’t it be so cool to be able to ask your gone grandparents some advice? Or watch movies featuring your favorite actor who passed away years ago, like Charlie Chaplin?
Director Oscar Sharp and AI researcher Ross Goodwin created an AI algorithm called Benjamin, where it generated a move, entirely.
Two years ago, Benjamin was already fed with 100s of screenplays with which he then wrote a film called SUNSPRING. Then on 2018, Benjamin was fed the Sunspring actors, public domain movies, random prompts, and within 48 hours, the result was “Zone Out”, a movie which production was completely done by AI, from script to imagery.
AI generated art was sold for $432,500 at Christie’s.
Three Paris based collaborators, known as Obvious, generated a series of portraits of the members of the fictional “Belamy family”. The series, known as “Edmond de Belamy”, was created by using AI, and in October 2018, one of the paintings was sold for $432,500 in an auction at Christie’s, a notable British auction house.
A “Real Mum” image was generated by an AI for Baby Dove’s UK advertising campaign.
Starting with important data coming from British mothers, “9 out of 10 first-time mums in the UK feel pressured to be perfect due to the images they see every day on social media and magazines.”, Dove came to a realization that there are no perfect mums, but there are just “real” ones. So, they used AI to create a “perfect mum” image by feeding 1800 images of motherhood from different sources.
Seeing these examples makes me think that mixed reality is soon going to be a part of our everyday life. Understandably, there are some concerns related to security, authenticity and truth. Even some think that this can waft us toward a disinformation era. However, like anything related to innovation and technology, “first it is scary, next it is familiar, and then it is accepted”.