If metaverse was the buzzword at every tech event last year, then AI and its contentious implications across almost every industry has been the pivotal focus of the year 2023 so far.
The controversial use of AI in the art and tech world has already been massively scrutinised, with its ability to automate and enhance various aspects of the artistic process causing concern over its impact on creative jobs.
AI seems to be the ever-growing colossus that never sleeps, so we spoke to Mark Pocock, our head of 3D to ask his personal thoughts on how he envisions the future of AI in VR, AR and games creation and whether he feels his skills and talents will be challenged by its use in the future.
Am I in favour of AI in VR, AR, games and the wider 3D industry? I’ll start there because that’s the big elephant. I actually am really in favour of AI. I think it’s how you use it that will matter.
Do I see it replacing artists? No, I don’t see that, because, let’s be honest, 3D scanners have been around for a long time and they haven’t replaced 3D artists. There’s things that computers can do and won’t be able to do.
No matter how clever they get, they’ll always need some information – and inspiration – fed into them to learn from. They have to get that from somewhere.
When it comes down to these new AI tools like Midjourney and stuff, I see them as tools and there are places in the workflow where they work really well.
For example, they would speed up our ability to moodboard and explore ideas quickly. A concept artist could waste a whole day on a task that takes AI a minute to generate.
The concept artist could then take the results and make them more realistic. I say realistic, because the problem with AI, even now, is that it smashes images together and it doesn’t do it in the way a human would.
AI doesn’t understand. It may know this is a house, this is this and this is that but it doesn’t know how to properly piece them together and craft them. And that’s what our team would do; they would think about it more deeply.
They would ask why is that house there? Who’s going to that house? What’s on the journey to that house? It’s all those little things a computer doesn’t think about.
In my opinion AI is at it’s most useful for rapid prototyping, and a good concept artist should embrace that as a way of speeding up their own workflow.
It’s no different than looking at inspiration from other people’s work, because that’s all it really is. It just takes inspiration from a load of files and creates something new. And that’s exactly what people do.
They just do it in a better way than AI can currently achieve and probably will ever achieve. So, yeah, I think in terms of that, I think it’s only going to help us. It’s a tool for using, like everything else.
Think back to when 3D animation emerged and all the 2D animators thought it was the end for them. 2D animation hasn’t gone away; its own thing, it’s still enjoyed, it’s a style and the same will be for every other technology that follows. We’ll adapt and there will still be a place for it.
Expectations around realism in games and XR is also creating a strain on budgets. Maybe this isn’t something that AI can solve but the future around this technology is actually quite similar to the discourse around asset stores and game design.
An artist can make something look extremely realistic, but it takes them a long time to do and this is unrealistic for most project budgets. Stylisation will become more of a way forward, that can be seen with the low poly aesthetic being both a technical and creative choice.
Ten years ago when I was first entering the games industry asset stores were not a big thing. Everything had to be created from scratch. There’s a wider acceptance to using these resources now.
If you get a project that’s low budget instead of saying no you can say yes and use these tools to make it happen. In the future, giant repositories will give people the ability to compete with big studios. For heavily stylised assets it still needs that human touch.
We’ve seen this issue around the emergence of 3D asset stores. AI, in some forms at least, is definitely here to stay. It’s up to the artist to judge whether it’s a medium they would like to incorporate into their toolkit amongst their stylus pens, classic stationary and software equipment.
AI in VR, AR and games can never truly replace the creativity and emotional depth that human artists bring to their work, whether that’s on paper, on our digital screens, or in VR.
We fashioned an AI prompt to try and mimic one of our historic projects – the Mercedes-Benz mixed reality experience – to see how it compares. We required something that allows for roads in the design for cars to travel along and it had to be a simple low-poly aesthetic that worked both in a mixed reality headset but also as a wooden architectural model too.
That was quite a demanding brief for us and has certainly proved too much for AI tools too! While some of this work could make for some useful inspiration, it’s no use as a direct way to generate art that would be useable in such a unique and demanding project.
The AI generated images:
The delivered product of the project: