August 12, 2021
Image: Warner Bros.
Good morning, and welcome to Protocol Next Up. This week: How Warner Bros. is using AI to put viewers into its latest trailer, and what's new with streaming around the world.
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Hollywood is embracing deepfakes, and we all can be a part of it: Warner Bros. has tapped synthetic media startup D-ID to promote its new movie "Reminiscence." A new website allows anyone to upload a photo, which D-ID's AI then turns into a moving deepfake video sequence in a short video clip promoting the film. I tried it and was impressed by the way D-ID's algorithms estimated facial movements just from a single photo.
D-ID actually started out as a privacy-focused startup, aiming to develop technology that protects consumers against facial recognition. Along the way, the startup's founders realized that the same technology could be used to optimize deepfakes. "We built a very strong face engine," D-ID CEO Gil Perry told me.
The same tech also can bring dead people back to life. Before going live with the "Reminiscence" campaign, D-ID made headlines with its collaboration with MyHeritage, which allowed people to create videos from photos of deceased relatives. Critics called the feature creepy, but Perry claimed that 95% of the tweets about it were actually supportive. "It gave us confidence that we know what we are doing," he said. Plus, the media attention resulted in over 600 leads for new partnerships.
D-ID is just the latest in a string of startups to help Hollywood with synthetic media. AI has been used to dub movies, make commercials during lockdown, and, yes, add some controversial audio to the Anthony Bourdain documentary.
It may take a couple more years until AI can replace actors in Hollywood movies, but Perry told me that this is very much something his company and others are aiming for. "Our long-term vision is to create full productions using AI," he said.
However, deepfake generators may need some safeguards first. Given its background in privacy tech, D-ID is looking into ways to make sure its deepfakes aren't being used for manipulation and harassment, Perry said. "The most important thing is that it will not cause harm."
"The metaverse is a dystopian nightmare." — Fightin' words from Niantic CEO John Hanke.
"I don't think it's coming in the future, I think we're already in it." — "The Matrix" VFX lead John Gaeta has his own take on the metaverse.
"We will be raising some prices ahead of our next fiscal year." — Sonos CFO Brittany Bagley, laying out how the company will respond to continued component shortages and cost increases.
Outages aren't a matter of if, but when. According to data from ThousandEyes, global disruptions in March 2020 — when we saw remote work roll out at scale — were 63% higher than they were in January 2020.
Streaming media intelligence specialist Conviva published its latest quarterly "State of Streaming" report this week. There's a lot in there, and you might just want to read the whole thing if you are following this industry closely (Bonus: The report is free), but a few tidbits stood out to me:
This looks amazing: General Mills has turned its Reese's Puffs cereal boxes into AR drum machines. Just put individual puffs onto a grid pattern printed on the back of the cereal box, and an AR web app turns those patterns into drum loops. My old pal Chris Albrecht tried it out and concluded that "using a cereal box to build your own beat sure beats digging for a cheap plastic toy at the bottom of one." Agreed! And now please excuse me, I urgently have to go buy some cereal.
Thanks for reading — see you next week!