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.

Robot takes first steps towards building artificial lifeforms

A robot equipped with sophisticated AI has successfully simulated the creation of artificial lifeforms, in a key first step towards the eventual goal of creating true artificial life.

The robot, which was developed by scientists at the University of Glasgow, was able to model the creation of artificial lifeforms using unstable oil-in-water droplets. These droplets effectively played the role of living cells, demonstrating the potential of future research to develop living cells based on building blocks that cannot be found in nature.

Significantly, the robot also successfully predicted their properties before they were created, even though this could not be achieved using conventional physical models.

The robot, which was designed by Glasgow University’s Regius Chair of Chemistry, Professor Lee Cronin, is driven by machine learning and the principles of evolution.

It has been developed to autonomously create oil-in-water droplets with a host of different chemical makeups and then use image recognition to assess their behaviour.

Using this information, the robot was able to engineer droplets to have different properties­. Those which were found to be desirable could then be recreated at any time, using a specific digital code.

“This work is exciting as it shows that we are able to use machine learning and a novel robotic platform to understand the system in ways that cannot be done using conventional laboratory methods, including the discovery of ‘swarm’ like group behaviour of the droplets, akin to flocking birds,” said Cronin.

“Achieving lifelike behaviours such as this are important in our mission to make new lifeforms, and these droplets may be considered ‘protocells’ – simplified models of living cells.”

One of the oil droplets created by the robot

The research, which is published today in the journal PNAS, is one of several research projects being undertaken by Cronin and his team within the field of artificial lifeforms.

While the overarching goal is moving towards the creation of lifeforms using new and unprecedented building blocks, the research may also have more immediate potential applications.

The team believes that their work could also have applications in several practical areas, including the development of new methods for drug delivery or even innovative materials with functional properties.

Mac spyware stole millions of user images

A criminal case brought against a man from Ohio, US has shed more light on a piece of Mac malware, dubbed Fruitfly, that was used to surreptitiously turn on cameras and microphones, take and download screenshots, log keystrokes, and steal tax and medical records, photographs, internet searches, and bank transactions from users.

Source: Ars Technica

Drone swarm attack strikes Russian military bases

Russia's Ministry of Defence claims its forces in Syria were attacked a week ago by a swarm of home-made drones. According to Russia's MoD Russian forces at the Khmeimim air base and Tartus naval facility "successfully warded off a terrorist attack with massive application of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs)"

Source: Science Alert

Las Vegas strip club employs robot strippers

A Las Vegas strip club has flown in robot strippers from London to 'perform' at the club during CES. Sapphire Las Vegas strip club managing partner Peter Feinstein said that he employed the robots because the demographics of CES have changed and the traditional female strippers aren’t enough to lure a crowd to the club anymore.

Source: Daily Beast

GM to make driverless cars without steering wheels or pedals by 2019

General Motors has announced it plans to mass-produce self-driving cars without traditional controls like steering wheels and pedals by 2019. “It’s a pretty exciting moment in the history of the path to wide scale [autonomous vehicle] deployment and having the first production car with no driver controls,” GM President Dan Ammann told The Verge.

Source: The Verge

Russia-linked hackers "Fancy Bears" target the IOC

Following Russia's ban from the upcoming 2018 Winter Olympics, the Russia-linked hacking group "Fancy Bears" has published a set of apparently stolen emails, which purportedly belong to officials from the International Olympic Committee, the United States Olympic Committee, and third-party groups associated with the organisations.

Source: Wired

Scientists discover ice cliffs on Mars

Using images provided by the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, scientists have described how steep cliffs, up to 100 meters tall, made of what appears to be nearly pure ice indicate that large deposits of ice may also be located in nearby underground deposits. The discovery has been described as “very exciting” for potential human bases.

Source: Science Mag