Top executives behind pioneering social network MySpace and mobile game publisher Jam City today are launching an artificial-intelligence tool that can generate brief snippets of video from just a text prompt, another step in sophistication and creative possibility in the booming AI space.
The tool is called PlaiDay (the unusual spelling is to incorporate “AI”) and was built out of Plai Labs’ internal development platform, which it has code-named Orchestra. PlaiDay is available for now through Plai Labs’ Discord server, but will soon be available “everywhere,” executives said.
“PlaiDay itself is a place where people can create their own stories without a lot of tech development,” said Chris DeWolfe, who was co-founder and CEO of both MySpace and Jam City. “If you think about going on TikTok or Instagram to tell stories, people spend hours and hours to do that. There aren’t really the (AI-enabled) tools out there do that. We want to democratize that for anyone, unleash their creative spirits, and allow anyone to become creative.”
Plai Labs – which is based in the central Los Angeles suburb of Culver City, Calif., – is backed by $32 million in seed funding announced early this year, led by AndreessenHorowitz with Coinbase, talent agency UTA and Crush Ventures.
DeWolfe emphasized that PlaiDay is unique so far because of its ability to personalize the video images it creates, incorporating images of an actual person to generate video characters that look more like those images.
The product has significant limits now, such as clip length (no more than a few seconds). The resulting images are striking and high quality, but not quite photo realistic.
But PlaiDay holds promise to enable creators to tackle more sophisticated video projects by stitching together scenes, and layering in audio, sound effects and more. Creators already can use the tool to “pan around, stitch together scenes, come from a different angle,” Whitcomb said.
“I think the big picture is this is meant to definitely be a real product that grows and enables storytelling for the masses, which they can’t do right now,” DeWolfe said. “Whatever big-budget (filmmaking) is going to be in the future will continue to be that. But this puts more creative tools in the hands of the masses. I don’t see any big problem with that. The way the platform was created allows us to solve problems with AI in a more efficient way.”
Long term, PlaiDay will have a free-to-use tier, but also offer a subscription model where users can pay “a few bucks a month” for more enhancements, DeWolfe said. DeWolfe, long a canny observer of and business partner with Hollywood’s media companies, said PlaiDay shouldn’t be seen as a threat to what the studios create, but a democratizing tool for other kinds of people.
“It’s much biggger than creating content,” DeWolfe said. “In my opinion, great writers are always going to exist, great actors are always going to exist, and great directors. This isn’t meant to compete with that. It gives the average person a chance to express themselves.”
Orchestra, PlaiDay’s underlying platform, was built from about a dozen neural networks, some open-source AI tools and other technology, said co-founder Jim Benedetto, Plai Labs Chief Architect and a former MySpace SVP of technology.
PlaiDay is considered a consumer-facing product, but the platform component will allow Plai Labs to create and offer a variety of other business-focused tools for specific market niches, to help non-technical specialists leverage AI for their own needs.
“Any category of AI can be bulit on this platform,” said co-founder and Chief Technology Officer Aber Whitcomb, who also was co-founder and CTO at MySpace and Jam City. “This platform is flexible enough to work within marketing, to automate marketing campaigns. It can be used in securities for analysis of data in a stream. But the best way to showcase the power of the platform is by really showing the most unique use of this, the first personalized text-to-video tool.”
A user of the platform will, eventually, be able to click-and-drag large chunks of code into place, in an approach similar to object-oriented programming, that puts multiple neural networks in place to tackle a business process or problem. Orchestra will also handle the often-complicated process of configuring and connecting the resulting application to compute, cloud and other resources to then carry out the work.
DeWolfe suggested the platform will unlock countless use cases by project managers and other operations employees across corporations, as they seek ways to make their work smarter, faster and more powerful.
“Now, the majority of AI (spending) of any business comes out of the technology department,” DeWolfe said. “We aren’t really conversant with the thousands of different variables that could affect a business or security. But there are product people who understand those problems very, very well. We will make that platform available for enterprises at some point.”
AI-driven filmmaking has been massively controversial in traditional Hollywood creative circles. It was a key issue in the recently settled strike by the Writers Guild of America, and reportedly is one of the biggest remaining sticking points in resolving the three-month-long actors strike by members of SAG-AFTRA.
Nonetheless, others are embracing the potential of AI tools for film creation in many ways.
This week, a film festival featuring six short projects made with AI tools unspooled at a rented theater on the historic Sony Pictures lot in Culver City, not far from Plai Labs’ offices, the Los Angeles Times reported. The films were created using AI tools to generate still images, voices, sound effects, backing music, and scripts. One festival sponsor was AdobeADBE, whose Firefly AI engine announced in March enables text-to-image and marketing-text generation tools.
Building a market like Orchestra is already a well established path to profitability for platform-focused companies in areas such as video games.
Most notably, Epic Games started out as a game-maker, with a game-development platform called Unreal Engine that became its own hugely important business, and further spawned the massively successful game Fortnite.
Now Unreal undergirds not just many publishers’ games but many Hollywood film and TV productions (such as Disney projects The Mandolorian and the live-action The Lion King) and immersive experiences. Unreal also fueled Steam, Epic’s online store, and has fed a huge online market for third-party assets that can be used to fill out those Unreal-based productions.
Now, OpenAI, the platform behind Microsoft’s ventures into AI-driven search and enterprise software, is following suit, creating a market to share and sell customized variants of its hugely popular ChatGPT text-focused generative AI platform.