Chatbots. Image generators. Contextual email replies. Summarising documents and web pages. AI-made music. AI generated interviews (albeit controversial). AI news anchors. Generative artificial intelligence (AI) is everywhere. Including good old TV.
It goes beyond AI-curated recommendations on streaming networks. The entertainment world is prepping for a full spectrum of TV shows, movies and ads, put together by generative AI.
Twitch TV, a streaming platform with the channel name @watchmeforever, hosts a TV show titled Nothing, Forever, now in its second season. It’s an AI/ML-generated sitcom. The visuals are created using text-to-visual tools such as Midjourney and Dall-E. GPT-3 and GPT-4, the same foundations on which ChatGPT and Microsoft Bing chatbots are built, provide the dialogue. Each episode is about an hour long, and to be honest, dull. But you’re strangely hooked.
In one of the scenes, a character, Yvonne, says that she’s thinking of naming her cat Mr Pickles. Another character, Fred, points out that it’s an unusual name for a cat. Larry, a third character, asks if Yvonne intends to feed pickles to the cat. (They’ll just be occasional treats, assures Yvonne.) Fred chimes in to wonder of this would cause cravings for pickle. A laugh track follows, along with music that’s very similar to what would have played on the 1990s sitcom, Seinfeld.
“I thought a sitcom would be the perfect place to start for an AI show, because it has the structure where it tells you when to laugh, or where the jokes are,” said Brian Habersberger, co-founder of Mismatch Media, the show’s makers, in an interview to the entertainment website, IGN. “The technology has gotten so much better, even in the past year, that now it can generate human-quality jokes and screenwriting.”
It’s not much to look at. AI can create convincing images, but it still struggles with video. Nothing, Forever’s visuals are big pixel-like boxes. The characters don’t always look at each other while talking. But creators are paying attention to the finer details. “Fixed an issue with the refrigerator door,” said the release notes for one of the updates earlier this year.
AI creating TV isn’t new. In 2016, Scottish cartoonist Andy Pandy set up a bot to generate new scripts for Friends. He shared some of those on Twitter. Even seven years ago, the bot generated promising dialogues.
“Okay, I’m going to Minsk”, says Phoebe, in the episode The One with the Monkey.
“Yeah, sure”, Rachel replies. Her disbelief is in keeping with her character. If only Pandy had ChatGPT to help.
An unrelated follow-up is the 15-minute Friends AI show, streaming on Vimeo. Chandler Bing sounds as he should, Joey is his usual cocky self. The dialogues are generated using GPT-4 LLM. Characters are generated using the Stable Diffusion tool. Even the apartment has the same vibe as fans might remember.
“We generated basic avatars that somewhat resemble the original cast, so that they can interact with their virtual world,” says Philipp Mass, director at Fable Studios, the makers of the show, in a statement. “The simulation then generates episodes, including the title, synopsis, scenes, beats and dialogue.”
It’s not everyone’s favourite new show yet for a reason. Generative AI visuals still have a long way to go. It is disconcerting to hear dialogues, when the characters’ lips aren’t moving.
AI is handling news too. NewsGPT, relies solely on AI (including an AI-generated anchor avatar for the video segment) and curates from different sources. “For too long, news channels have been plagued by bias and subjective reporting,” says the company’s CEO Alan Levy. “With NewsGPT, we are able to provide viewers with the facts and the truth, without any hidden agendas or biases.”
There are ads generated by AI too, for pizza brands, beer labels and a visual of an AI-generated Will Smith eating spaghetti. Find them on YouTube.
“We could be optimistic and hopeful and creative with these tools, or we can pull our hair out and be upset and stressed out about them,” author Hugh Howey said in an interview with Wired, at the launch of the TV adaptation of his postapocalyptic trilogy Silo. The show is a dystopian drama, where what remains of humanity lives in an underground silo. No one knows who built it, the suspicion being machines. It is now showing on Apple TV+. His tweets predict that in less than a year or two, AI will be ready for a film script, and audiences can watch that film the same day. And that within five years, great-looking films will be made this way.
Mr Pickles, eating pickles and having someone crave pickles will be a thing of the forgotten past.
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