Industry News [Week of May 4]

Last week’s overview of news from our industry seemed to go well, so I figured I’d keep it going. Here are some stories from the past week in gaming, machine learning, and audio which I found relevant!

  • “Virtual Celebrity” Lil Miquela signs with CAA
    • Miquela is among the first “virtual celebrities”, a new approach to influencers where instead of relying on a single individual, you construct a person – including personality, interests, appearance and voice – out of whole cloth. Some claim this is manipulative, while others laud the ability to match more deeply with communities and build deeper relationships. But in either case, one things is definitely true – just as you can copy-paste text thanks to computers, a “virtual celebrity” can be in multiple places at once, meaning such a character scales much differently from a physical celebrity. This will unlock many new opportunities and questions around how influencers engage with their audience – and it’s exciting to see industry leaders like CAA diving in to truly explore the full implications of this idea.
  • Valorant is doubling down on the importance of building a non-toxic community.
    • Anna Donlon, the EP of Valorant, recently wrote a blog post acknowledging the unfortunate reality of toxicity in gaming – and the truth that even in these earliest days of Valorant’s release, it’s not immune to such bad actors. One interesting part of her announcement, though, was her emphasis on the value of preserving social elements such as voice chat, rather than removing the features entirely (which would avoid the risk but also significantly hurt the experience.) Readers of this blog likely won’t be surprised to hear that I share the sentiment that social interaction is too essential in online gaming to sacrifice – and I look forward to seeing the ways the industry (with Modulate’s help, of course!) can continue to innovate on novel ways to preserve this freedom while still ensuring everyone has a safe and enjoyable experience.
  • The MIT Media Lab released a project to test how you do at detecting video deepfakes
    • I encourage you to try it for yourself, as seeing these videos side by side can certainly help teach you some of the signs of videos that have been altered. That said, I was a bit surprised by the way the project was structured, as in many of the videos, I couldn’t spot any difference between the videos whatsoever, much less the “deepfaked” element specifically. It seems like if the “deepfake” is so subtle as to cause a barely-noticeable change, then I’m not going to be led to believe anything different by watching the altered video as compared to the original! So while I think this is an interesting assessment, I suspect we’ll need additional work to understand the degree to which altered video could be used to seriously mislead people’s perceptions.
  • Sony Music seems to be building an immersive online experience for music
    • As the article mentions, Fortnite has recently demonstrated the incredible potential of virtual concert experiences by bringing Travis Scott onto the platform to perform. The hints picked up here suggest that Sony Music, among others, has taken notice of the ways these kinds of online platforms could revolutionize fandom. And, of course, new opportunities to participate in social gatherings and engage with our favorite experiences are only more important now that COVID-19 has us all staying inside.
  • Gaming is pro-social!
    • So much time is spent discussing fears around gaming making people less social, that I feel it’s worthwhile to promote stories of gaming leading to truly positive social outcomes when I can. Remember – increased connectedness is an amplifier, so the goodness or badness always comes from us!

That’s all for this week! I’ll be seeing how it goes to keep this up for a while, but please let me know if you find these posts useful (or not!), as any feedback is always welcome!

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