Captions: Generative Video Startup Raises $60 Million in NYC

Generative video creation and editing platform Captions has raised $60 million in Series C funding. Founded in 2021 by former Microsoft engineer Gaurav Misra and Goldman Sachs alum Dwight Churchill, the company’s technologies — Lipdub, AI Edit and the 3D avatar app AI Creator — have amassed more than 10 million downloads for mobile, the firm says. The C round brings its total raise to $100 million for a stated market valuation of $500 million. With the new funding, Captions plans to expand its presence in New York City, which is “emerging as the epicenter for AI research,” according to Misra. Continue reading Captions: Generative Video Startup Raises $60 Million in NYC

Meta AI Image Analysis and Editing Beta Tested for WhatsApp

Meta’s popular instant messaging service WhatsApp is reportedly beta testing a feature that would allow the already integrated Meta AI chatbot to edit and reply to images. The capability was spotted in the WhatsApp beta for Android 2.24.14.20, with AI powered by Llama 3, the company’s newest large language model released in April. The beta version works via a camera button added to the text box for Meta AI chat in WhatsApp. When pressed, the button triggers a pop-up that indicates Meta AI can analyze and edit photos, though it’s currently unclear to what extent. Continue reading Meta AI Image Analysis and Editing Beta Tested for WhatsApp

Meta Testing AI Chatbots for Instagram Created by Its Users

Meta Platforms CEO Mark Zuckerberg recently announced that the company will test a feature to create AI characters through the AI Studio on Instagram that can engage with fans and respond to messages. “Rolling out an early test in the U.S. of our AI Studio so you might start seeing AIs from your favorite creators and interest-based AIs in the coming weeks on Instagram,” he wrote. “These will primarily show up in messaging for now, and will be clearly labeled as AI.” Zuckerberg noted the beta test will help the company improve AI characters and will be made “available to more people soon.” Meta launched AI Studio last year to help businesses build custom chatbots. Continue reading Meta Testing AI Chatbots for Instagram Created by Its Users

Lifelike AI Avatars to Get New Features with Synthesia Update

Synthesia, which uses AI to create business avatars for use in content such as training, presentation and customer service videos, has announced a major platform update. “Coming soon” with Synthesia 2.0 are full-body avatars that include hands capable of a wide range of motions. Users can animate motion using skeletal sequences on which the persona selected from the catalog can then be automatically mapped. Starting next month, the Nvidia-backed UK company will offer the ability to incorporate brand identity — including typography, colors and logos — into templated videos. A new translation tool automatically applies updates to all languages. Continue reading Lifelike AI Avatars to Get New Features with Synthesia Update

Synthesia Express-1 Model Gives ‘Expressive Avatars’ Emotion

London-based AI-startup Synthesia, which creates avatars for enterprise-level generative video presentations, has added “Expressive Avatars” to its feature kit. Powered by Synthesia’s new Express-1 model, these fourth-generation avatars have achieved a new benchmark in realism by using contextual expressions that approximates human emotion, the company says. Express-1 has been trained “to understand the intricate relationship between what we say and how we say it,” allowing Expressive Avatars to perform a script with the correct vocal tone, body language and lip movement, “like a real actor,” according to Synthesia. Continue reading Synthesia Express-1 Model Gives ‘Expressive Avatars’ Emotion

Microsoft’s VASA-1 Can Generate Talking Faces in Real Time

Microsoft has developed VASA, a framework for generating lifelike virtual characters with vocal capabilities including speaking and singing. The premiere model, VASA-1, can perform the feat in real time from a single static image and a vocalization clip. The research demo showcases realistic audio-enhanced faces that can be fine-tuned to look in different directions or change expression in video clips of up to one minute at 512 x 512 pixels and up to 40fps “with negligible starting latency,” according to Microsoft, which says “it paves the way for real-time engagements with lifelike avatars that emulate human conversational behaviors.” Continue reading Microsoft’s VASA-1 Can Generate Talking Faces in Real Time

Soul Machines Aims for Photorealistic Marilyn Monroe Chatbot

Soul Machines debuted a synthetic Marilyn Monroe last week at SXSW. The New Zealand-based company teamed on the Digital Marilyn project with Authentic Brands Group, a New York management firm that represents a host of fashion labels as well as personalities such as Elvis Presley, David Beckham and Muhammad Ali. The result is a sophisticated chatbot that Soul Machines describes as an “interactive experience.” Drawing on biological AI, Soul Machines is packaging a “personalized engagement opportunity” for fans and brands, which could lead to new approaches in advertising and promotions. Continue reading Soul Machines Aims for Photorealistic Marilyn Monroe Chatbot

Alibaba’s EMO Can Generate Performance Video from Images

Alibaba is touting a new artificial intelligence system that can animate portraits, making people sing and talk in realistic fashion. Researchers at the Alibaba Group’s Institute for Intelligent Computing developed the generative video framework, calling it EMO, short for Emote Portrait Alive. Input a single reference image along with “vocal audio,” as in talking or singing, and “our method can generate vocal avatar videos with expressive facial expressions and various head poses,” the researchers say, adding that EMO can generate videos of any duration, “depending on the length of video input.” Continue reading Alibaba’s EMO Can Generate Performance Video from Images

Disney Announces Gaming and Sports Part of Growth Strategy

The Walt Disney Company announced revenue of $23.5 billion for the quarter ending December 31, essentially consistent year-over-year, while net income was up 49 percent to $1.91 billion year-over-year. CEO Bob Iger amplified plans to bring the company “to a period of sustained growth.” Following news that ESPN plans to partner on a new sports streaming platform, Iger disclosed a $1.5 billion investment in “Fortnite” creator Epic Games that will see the companies “collaborate on an all-new games and entertainment universe.” He also revealed Disney+ will exclusively stream Taylor Swift’s “The Eras Tour” concert film. Continue reading Disney Announces Gaming and Sports Part of Growth Strategy

Zoom Meetings for Apple Vision Pro App Get Avatars and More

Virtual meeting tool Zoom has become one of the first companies to announce an app designed specifically for the Apple Vision Pro mixed reality headset, shipping February 2. Zoom’s new app “seamlessly blends video conferencing with users’ physical space, blurring the lines of in-person and remote meetings” with the Vision Pro for “a more real-world, immersive environment,” according to Zoom. The result is an “authentic spatial representation” of people and their motions in the Vision Pro world on Zoom. The app supports Apple’s Persona feature, which uses machine learning to generate digital avatars. Continue reading Zoom Meetings for Apple Vision Pro App Get Avatars and More

Microsoft Adds Mesh to Enable 3D and VR Meetings in Teams

Microsoft has added the Mesh mixed reality platform to its Teams remote collaboration app, making 3D and VR meetings now generally available to desktop Windows users and those with Meta Quest headsets. The immersive 3D meeting environments feature spatial audio as well as “live reactions” and the other standard Mesh features will be available to those with Microsoft Teams business accounts. Custom immersive spaces are also available to those with Teams Premium licenses. Microsoft says “hundreds of millions” of people worldwide are currently using Teams, although Mesh for Teams has only been in public preview since late 2022. Continue reading Microsoft Adds Mesh to Enable 3D and VR Meetings in Teams

CES: Nvidia Avatar Cloud Engine Uses AI for Digital Characters

As part of what it calls “production microservices,” Nvidia is adding an Avatar Cloud Engine (ACE) that lets game developers, as well as those who make tools and middleware, to integrate generative AI models into the digital avatars created for games and applications. The new ACE microservices “let developers build interactive avatars using AI models such as Nvidia Omniverse Audio2Face (A2F), which creates expressive facial animations from audio sources, and Nvidia Riva automatic speech recognition (ASR), for building customizable multilingual speech and translation applications using generative AI,” Nvidia says. Continue reading CES: Nvidia Avatar Cloud Engine Uses AI for Digital Characters

CES: Creators Talk About Integrating AI into Their Media Work

Nuconomi CTO Greg Carron, tech and business journalist Molly Wood, and CBS Sports Radio host JR Jackson spoke with Consumer Technology Association Senior VP of Government Affairs Michael Petricone about how they’ve integrated artificial intelligence into their artistic expression. “The synergy of technology and creativity is creating a profound transformation,” explained Petricone. Reporter and climate change investor Wood noted that synergy led to the launch of Molly Wood Media where she uses AI to streamline her process. “I used AI to make myself a cyborg and do everything I want to do as a human being,” she said. “Turns out I don’t need a producer.” Continue reading CES: Creators Talk About Integrating AI into Their Media Work

Apple Unveils New Advances in Artificial Intelligence Research

Apple recently announced advances in artificial intelligence research that could introduce more immersive visual experiences and enable sophisticated AI systems to run on the company’s popular mobile devices. Two new research papers highlight techniques for creating 3D avatars from video content and efficiently deploying large language models on devices challenged by limited memory. The real-time ability to create avatars and 3D scenes from an iPhone camera could bring a range of new possibilities for CE devices in areas such as synthetic media, telepresence, social interaction, virtual try-on and more. Continue reading Apple Unveils New Advances in Artificial Intelligence Research

KISS to Go Fully Virtual with Avatars from ILM and Pophouse

Rock group KISS concluded the last show of its “End of the Road” farewell tour as digital avatars who performed the encore tune “God Gave Rock and Roll to You” to mark the “withdrawal of the flesh and blood group” and usher the band into an era of virtual touring. The KISS avatars were created by Industrial Light & Magic and facilitated through a partnership with Pophouse Entertainment, a Swedish company known for music and entertainment brand extensions as well as a lead investor and production partner for the ABBA Voyage virtual concert residency. Pophouse says the KISS avatars will perform for fans “for decades to come.” Continue reading KISS to Go Fully Virtual with Avatars from ILM and Pophouse