I've been watching the development of AI in the creative sector, and I thought it was time to talk about it. The creative sector seems to be embracing the use of AI to supplement creativity and content creation, rather than replacing any one task. Right now, AI in its broadest sense is referring to (in AI parlance) the second wave of 'statistical learning' - solving problem domains, but not yet having the power to generate new ideas and understanding based on context, or the third wave of AI. This is then driving how the creative sector is able to use AI.
Creation - Sparking new ideas
Retail and marketing organisations are using AI to spark new ideas - for example, during workshops, transcribing the conversation, and searching for related concepts, which could allow people to make new connections. This is also improving rote tasks of content management - automatically captioning images which a human has selected to accompany a news article, or searching for new images that could be used using tools like Bing Image Search; with the ability to filter by newness, and how 'formal' the image is.
AI is allowing creative organisations to improve the touchpoints with their customers. For example, Avanade is working with a multinational entertainment company to create virtual agents - characters that can respond on-brand, in an engaging way. This is a new avenue, allowing two-way conversations, for new characters that respond to customers using the same phrasing, and evoking the same persona; and allowing customers to chat with their favourite brands in and around the media they watch.
Improving & sustaining the brand
The use of these new touchpoints also allows creative organisations new opportunities to improve their brand. For example, I've worked in the past with Microsoft speech technology to create recognisable, on-brand “voice fonts” – allowing for virtual agents to synthesise voice in a way that matches voice actors. These AI technologies are also allowing creative organisations to leverage the results of previous campaigns and promotional messages to recommend new messages, and predict the success of the next campaign.
Generation - Creating initial designs
Probably one of the most impactful use of AI right now is in generation - using AI to look at historic content, and generate designs combined in new and differing ways. This is really lowering the barrier for creatives to support startups and burgeoning companies - for example, Wix is using AI to generate websites that match a certain colour scheme, and information architecture; and Logojoy is using AI to generate custom logos, typography, and colour schemes. Key to this though, and going back to the idea of 'statistical learning' in AI - for the premium experience, and that level of creativity, a human creative still needs to augment the AI created designs.
What are the challenges to the use of AI in the creative industries?
The main challenge with AI right now is where it sits as a tool. The creative industry doesn't seem to be adopting AI techniques to solve the problems they are best at, but rather seeing it as an 'either-or.' For example, tools like Sketch2code from Microsoft can take wireframes and designs, to create a working prototype which designers and developers can collaborate on, and test.
This should be a net positive - these technologies don't understand the vagaries of accessibility, they can't support with a content strategy, and they aren't able to add animation or logic - but most of the response to this seems to have a fear that developers will lose their jobs. Developers wrote this, and ultimately need to accept where AI can add value and do things better so that the creative industry can focus on that spark of generating new ideas.
It’s clear that AI is not currently sophisticated enough to fully replace creatives in the industry, but is there a sense that these technologies could hamper creativity?Certainly with the current wave of AI and design, there's certainly a sense that these technologies could hamper creativity. Most of the technologies currently available are simply using historic data to replicate styles we already have, or recombining those styles in new ways.
There may be a phrase 'there is nothing new under the sun' but certainly if we are to prove that wrong, AI as it is won't help.In 2016, an AI neural network called 'Benjamin' wrote a screenplay, including stage directions and dialog- this script then needed interpretation by a human, to be converted into a masterpiece.
In 2018, online courses were trumpeting the ability of people to become music stars, using AI tools to compose and remix music; similar to a startup, AIVA, which composes emotional soundtracks that have already been used in the background to real videos. AI could hamper creativity if analytics are used to predict the future success of something new, based on what has gone before - modelling this type of impact could lead to companies becoming more risk-averse, rather than continuing to provoke new thought and discussion.
How will AI evolve within the creative industries?
Ultimately I think AI in the creative industries will evolve in the same way as elsewhere - having the ability to self-generate 'new' content, and different ideas, rather than recombining the past. I think the key is how well the creative industries embrace this.AI won't start by creating the greatest screenplay, or the best art, and will still require humans to add that artistic flare for some time - but it might enable humans to realise creativity and art that we didn't have the ability to produce before. For example, Odico is a Danish startup which is using AI and robotics to produce unique architecture and realise complex shapes that are out of reach of traditional construction techniques.