VR, holograms and drones: The future of film

From sound to television, the film industry has always had to confront technological advances or face oblivion. So far film has managed to evolve and innovate in order to stay relevant, but can cinema maintain its rightful place at the head of popular culture?

In order to do so, film will once again have to fend off challenges from infant technologies, while simultaneously adapting what it does to meet the needs of an increasingly connected audience.

So for your viewing pleasure, we look at how the world of cinema as we know it is changing.

Automatically generate video from text

Have you ever found yourself arguing with someone about whether the book or the movie is the better version of something?  Well, if Bill Gates and Nathan Myhrvold have their way then there may be no further need to discuss the matter.

The technological duo have patented a device which can create a video or visual representation of any random selection of text.

Potentially, this could mean that there would be no need for lavish reproductions of our favourite books, because we will instantly be able to see what they would look like on screen.

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Computer-generated actors

Actors may not be a necessary part of the future film industry. Paul Walker’s posthumous appearance in the seventh film in the Fast and Furious series has caused some to question the need for actors, especially if the technology were to develop sufficiently and allow them to be recreated from scratch.

The technology used in Fast and Furious Seven was developed by Peter Jackson’s Weta Digital studio. To create the effect they used a combination of digital reconstruction techniques, as well as using Paul Walker’s brothers as stand-ins for the recently deceased star.

The cinema of the future could see actors — from both past and present — digitally constructed and inserted into films. If that were to happen, we may be spared scenes like this from American Sniper:

The cinema screen as just another platform

Cinema has faced competition from another platform before with the advent of television. But now film has to contend with television, tablets, phones and pervasive social media platforms.

The director Christopher Nolan has commented on cinema’s need to innovate and come up with bigger, better and more visually appealing ways of sharing film. “The audience experience is distinct from home entertainment, but not so much that people seek it out for its own sake,” he said.

“The experience must distinguish itself in other ways. And it will…These developments will require innovation, experimentation and expense, not cost-cutting exercises disguised as digital ‘upgrades’ or gimmickry aimed at justifying variable ticket pricing.”

Perhaps in the future this could lead to theatres moving away from projecting a sequence of two-dimensional images in a darkened room and evolve into large-scale public attractions. For instance, we’ve already seen cinema move outside, with open-air cinema. Imagine where it could go in the future.

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VR: entering the Matrix

We are just beginning to realise virtual reality’s capability, but the technology could be used to move audiences from witnessing events unfold to a world where they actually participate in them.

Just as theatres will have to innovate to maintain interest so will filmmakers, if they want to capitalise on the opportunity VR presents for immersive filmmaking.

At this point in VR’s development an off-the-shelf VR camera of true cinema quality doesn’t exist and the editing systems for VR are rudimentary. Most people working in VR are creating their own solutions. This leaves a massive opportunity for directors and filmmakers who excel when coming up with creative answers to technological problems.

So at this point in time, VR cinema needs its George Lucas or James Cameron: someone who can come along and redefine the technology.

Image courtesy of Nan Palmero

Image courtesy of Nan Palmero

Drone cinematography

VR isn’t the only technology in development that could aid the film industry. Drones could eventually be a cheap and simple way of capturing aerial and crane shots, and in some cases are already being used.

Remember the aerial shot of Julie Andrews that opens The Sound of Music? That could be filmed with relative ease by using a drone. Hollywood studios are aware of the possibilities for drone technology, where previously tough and expensive shots are getting easier to produce.

However, the technology isn’t just useful to makers of fiction. Documentary filmmakers can use drone technology to reach areas that human camera operators cannot go, which is what happened in the capturing of this aerial shot of a waterfall in Norway:

Cinema is a still a young art form, and we are only just beginning to understand how to control, manipulate and share visual and aural perceptions. But by utilising new technology, cinema will find new ways of stimulating the senses.

Wanted man captured thanks to facial recognition

A Chinese man who was wanted by police for “economic crimes” – which can include anything from tax evasion to the theft of public property – was arrested at a music concert in China after facial recognition technology spotted him inside the venue.

Source: Abacus News

SpaceX president commits to city-to-city rocket travel

SpaceX president and chief operating officer Gwynne Shotwell has reiterated the company’s plans to make city-to-city travel — on Earth — using a rocket that’s designed for outer space a reality. Shotwell says the tech will be operational “within a decade, for sure.”

Source: Recode

Businessman wins battle with Google over 'right to be forgotten'

A businessman fighting for the "right to be forgotten" has won a UK High Court action against Google.. The businessman served six months’ in prison for “conspiracy to carry out surveillance”, and the judge agreed to an “appropriate delisting order".

Source: Press Gazette

UK launched cyber attack on Islamic State

The UK has conducted a "major offensive cyber campaign" against the Islamic State group, the director of the intelligence agency GCHQ, Jeremy Fleming, has revealed. The operation hindered the group's ability to co-ordinate attacks and suppressed its propaganda.

Source: BBC

Goldman Sachs consider whether curing patients is bad for business

Goldman Sachs analysts have attempted to tackle the question of whether pioneering "gene therapy" treatment will be bad for business in the long run. "Is curing patients a sustainable business model?" analysts ask in a report entitled "The Genome Revolution."

Source: CNBC

Four-armed robot performing surgery in the UK

A £1.5m "robotic" surgeon, controlled using a computer console, is being used to shorten the time patients spend recovering after operations. The da Vinci Xi machine is the only one in the country being used for upper gastrointestinal surgery.

Source: BBC

Virgin Galactic rocket planes go past the speed of sound

Virgin Galactic completed its first powered flight in nearly four years when Richard Branson's space company launched its Unity spacecraft, which reached supersonic speeds before safely landing. “We’ve been working towards this moment for a long time,” Virgin Galactic CEO George Whitesides said in an email to Quartz.

Source: Quartz

Google employees protest being in "the business of war"

Thousands of Google employees, including dozens of senior engineers, have signed a letter protesting the company’s involvement in a Pentagon program that uses AI to interpret video imagery and could be used to improve the targeting of drone strikes. The letter, which is circulating inside Google, has garnered more than 3,100 signatures

Source: New York Times

Computer system transcribes words users “speak silently”

MIT researchers have developed a computer interface that transcribes words that the user verbalises internally but does not actually speak aloud. The wearable device picks up neuromuscular signals in the jaw and face that are triggered by internal verbalisations — saying words “in your head” — but are undetectable to the human eye.

Source: MIT News

Drones could be used to penalise bad farming

A report by a coalition of environmental campaigners is arguing squadrons of drones should be deployed to locate and penalise farmers who let soil run off their fields. Their report says drones can help to spot bad farming, which is said to cost more than £1.2bn a year by clogging rivers and contributing to floods.

Source: BBC

Californian company unveil space hotel

Orion Span, a California company, has unveiled its Aurora Station, a commercial space station that would house a luxury hotel. The idea is to put the craft in low-earth orbit, about 200 miles up, with a stay at the hotel likely to cost $9.5 million for a 12-day trip, but you can reserve a spot now with an $80,000 deposit.

UK mobile operators pay close to £1.4bn for 5G

An auction of frequencies for the next generation of mobile phone networks has raised £1.36bn, says regulator Ofcom. Vodafone, EE, O2 and Three all won the bandwidth needed for the future 5G mobile internet services, which are not expected to be launched until 2020.

Source: BBC