OpenAI releases Sora, which will create eye-catching videos

In April, a New York start-up called Runway AI unveiled technology that lets people create videos of a cow at a birthday party or a dog chatting on a smartphone by typing into a box on a computer screen.

The four-second videos were blurry, choppy, distorted, and disturbing. But they were a clear sign that artificial intelligence technologies will produce increasingly convincing videos in the coming months and years.

10 months later, San Francisco start-up OpenAI released a similar system that generated videos taken from Hollywood movies. In one demonstration, the camera captured images — created in minutes — of woolly mammoths strolling through a snowy meadow, a monster staring at a melting candle, and a Tokyo street scene.

OpenAI, the company behind the ChatGPT chatbot and still-image generator DALL-E, is one of several companies racing to develop this kind of instant video generator, including start-ups like Runway and tech giants like Google and Meta. Facebook and Instagram. This technology can speed up the work of experienced filmmakers while completely replacing less experienced digital artists.

It's a quick and cheap way to create online disinformation, which makes it even harder to tell what's real on the Internet.

“I'm absolutely terrified that this kind of thing will sway a narrowly contested election,” said Oren Etzioni, a professor at the University of Washington who specializes in artificial intelligence. He is the founder of True Media, a nonprofit that uncovers online disinformation in political campaigns.

OpenAI calls its new system Sora, after the Japanese word for sky. The team behind the technology, including researchers Tim Brooks and Phil Peebles, chose the name because it “evokes the idea of ​​limitless creative potential.”

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In an interview, the company has yet to release Sora to the public because it is still working on understanding the system's risks. Instead, OpenAI is sharing the technology with a small group of academics and other outside researchers who will “red team” it, a term that looks for ways it can be misused.

“The aim here is to provide a preview of what's on the horizon so people can see the capabilities of this technology – and we can get feedback,” Dr Brooks said.

OpenAI already tags computer-generated videos with a watermark that identifies them as AI-generated but the company acknowledges that they can be removed. They can also be difficult to spot. (The New York Times added “Created by AI” watermarks to videos with this story.)

This system is an example of generative AI, which can instantly generate text, images and sounds. Like other generative AI technologies, OpenAI's system learns by analyzing digital data — in this case, videos and captions that describe what those videos contain.

OpenAI declined to say how many videos the system learned from or where they came from, though the training included both publicly available videos and videos licensed from copyright holders. The company is tight-lipped about the data it uses to train its technologies, mostly because it wants to maintain an advantage over competitors — and has been sued several times for using copyrighted material.

Sora creates videos in response to brief descriptions such as “a beautiful papercraft world of coral reefs filled with colorful fish and marine life.” Although videos are interesting, they are not always perfect and may contain strange and illogical images. For example, the organization recently produced a video of someone eating a cookie — but the cookie wasn't small.

DALL-E, Midjourney and other still-image generators have improved so rapidly in the past few years that they now produce images that are almost indistinguishable from photographs. This has made it difficult to spot false information online, and many digital artists complain that it has made it difficult for them to find work.

“When Midjourney first came out in 2022, we all laughed and said, 'Oh, that looks great,'” said Reed Southon, a film concept artist in Michigan. “Now people are losing their jobs midjourney.”

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