NAB: Artificial Intelligence Is the Next Frontier for Virtual Reality

The NAB Future of Cinema Summit explored the future of both AI and high dynamic range.
Courtesy of Robb Cohen

Artificial intelligence will begin to play a more vital role in areas such as virtual reality and gaming, agreed several speakers Sunday at the National Association of Broadcasters Show's Future of Cinema Summit.

“We have been talking about using AI in gaming, but it's more a simulated intelligence. If the player does something that's not in the list [of actions, it won’t properly respond],” said Kevin Bolen, immersive and interactive audio designer at Skywalker Sound. “I think the next generation is an artificial character that responds and interacts appropriately based on what the player does. This will give us a chance to create interesting experiences.”

Jacqueline Bosnjak, CEO of sound technology company Mach1, asserted that AI could greatly enhance VR. “With VR, it feels like the experience isn’t enough. You want to leave your mark on the world and share your experience. I think AI is going to allow us to do that.”

Adding that her company is working on a project that’s using AI to drive its narrative, she said, “Suddenly, you are the protagonist. I think this will take VR out of the novelty phase and into this place where you are in the metaverse.”

Sunday's program also included continued discussion about the promise — as well as technical hurdles — of high dynamic range imagery, meaning a wider range between the whitest whites and blackest blacks. This has already rolled out on a limited number of cinema screens, as well as through support from major TV set makers.

"Filmmakers are really starting to explore what's possible in HDR. It's getting pretty exciting," said Don Eklund, chief technology officer at Sony Pictures, adding that for the home, “the bad news is the ecosystem that has developed around the consumer displays is pretty uneven."

A key topic was mastering: For instance, do you master the HDR version or the standard version first? And what about going from theatrical release to the home?

"For our filmmakers, the theatrical is the hero version that everyone is shooting for; we have had those conversations with our filmmakers," Marvel vp technology Annie Chang reported, adding that right now, they generally want to spend the most time on the version that most audiences will see — the standard dynamic range version. "At some point it will flip."

"The home side is so different; you would make different creative choices. I don't know if you can reconcile those two," she added.

Chang also reported that Marvel is working to find a non-proprietary way of working with HDR using the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences' Academy Color Encoding System (ACES). Saying that Guardians of the Galaxy, Vol. 2 director James Gunn is "really excited" about HDR, she related that Marvel is testing methods on Guardians 2 and that testing would continue on Spider-Man: Homecoming.

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