The metaverse: Looking at the evolution of digital content
Zone’s Principal Solution Architect, Adam Jackson, explains how the metaverse will radically change content creation forever.
The metaverse is on everyone’s lips of late and there are many questions: What does it mean? Will this change how we interact? What is the best way to leverage this technology?
While these questions are still being explored, there is one thing we can infer: digital content. Right now, we are in the first stage of the creator economy. Companies like Google do not create content; they create platforms or tools of production and allow others to create the content for them. With the birth of the metaverse, this is likely to become exponentially bigger.
Digital content at scale
At the moment, there are specific types of content — generally videos, images and music. With the metaverse, everything from houses to cars and clothing will be required, digitally. That content may need to be interactive, animated, or available in different styles depending on mood or time of day.
We are also in the age of the digital self-image. People affiliate themselves with online groups and have PFP (Profile Pictures) selling for thousands in the NFT (Non-Fungible Tokens) space, where people proudly display their images as a reflection of themselves. These have become virtual status symbols and whilst this may not be important to everyone in the same manner, it shows unique content that allows an individual to express themselves or communicate will be in high demand. The NFT space is an area to monitor, as it’s likely an early test bed of what can be successful in what comes next (but that is a topic for another day).
If we take a moment to think about the scale of digital content that will be required while factoring in the demand from the consumer for uniqueness — it’s staggering. There are not enough artists, designers, or production houses in the world to cope with such demand.
This is where AI comes in
In recent years, AI and machine learning in the art space has been making massive strides, with almost weekly developments. For a background read on the recent history of AI art, I would recommend checking Artnome’s ‘Why Love Generative Art’ article, but the below diagram gives a rough overview of the developments:
As you can see, the evolution has been one about quality and control; this has progressed even further with the most recent development DALL-E2, which is a new AI system that can create realistic images and art from a description in natural language. We have only discussed visual art, but similar progress is being made in the audio space (see this article on current developments on Water & Music).
In animation, you have tools like Flowframes, which can take your keyframes and produce the tweens (in-between frames) needed to complete the animation. For writers, you can use a tool called GPT3 to write an entire article based on an outline or point it to a source of data and ask it questions in English to get some talking points.
Future role for artists? AI as a tool
Such developments have led to the artists of the world fearing obsoletion. It’s a common worry mentioned in the NFT world; however, I think this comes from a misunderstanding of its potential application. As we established above, the size of the market is going to be so big, I don’t think there will ever be a time where unique content, created by hand, will not be in demand. That being said, we really should be looking at AI as more of an assistant and how hands-on you want to be is up to you. The more hands-on you are, the closer to your vision the art is likely to be.
An animator no longer needs to create every single frame to complete an animation, they create the keyframes and allow AI to fill in the blanks. An artist might need to produce a million unique characters for a game; now you can create the key components of that character, different traits and allow AI to produce the finished items based on your designs. Maybe you have writer’s block and need some prompting to get your ideas started? Describe what you want and receive 10 different initial starting points on which to paint over or use as inspiration, then use this as a template for scaled production, each with small unique details that are context-appropriate.
As this shows you can be as hands-on as you want to be, it’s like making the leap from traditional painting to photoshop, where suddenly a failed paint stroke could be undone in an instant. This should be seen as enhancing human creativity, not replacing it. It’s a tool that is with you as the creative director and by the way, traditional painting still exists.
Those interested in finding out more about the metaverse and NFT realm should follow relevant communities on Twitter and Discord. A good starting point would be to follow Claire Silver and if you want to learn about the tech side of things, Neuralism has a very informative and friendly discord.