Q&A WITH GUY GADNEY, CO-FOUNDER & CEO, CHARISMA.AI
TELL US ABOUT CHARISMA.AI - WHO YOU ARE AND WHAT YOU DO:
I run Charisma.ai which is a technology platform for interactive stories powered by AI.
This means that TV and film audiences can now be cast inside stories, able to talk to characters voice-voice, influencing their behaviour and impacting the story itself. Charisma.ai takes concepts like Choose Your Own Adventure and advances them hugely into experiences that make audiences feel like they are part of the stories, perhaps like how campfire stories used to be told, but on a much larger scale!
We had two major project launches scheduled just as the pandemic hit. We launched our interactive graphic novel app, Charisma Comics, in the app stores, and our video interactive drama for Sky's 'Bulletproof' TV series. It was bittersweet to launch such brilliant work, but then have all the marketing stop as everyone focused on much bigger issues quite naturally.
For us, it was a question of using the time since to innovate, explore ideas deeply, and build partnerships. For example, the theatre industry has been hit very hard. We partnered with Creation Theatre and Big Telly to produce a hugely ambitious version of 'Alice in Wonderland', combining an AI CheshireCat, live actors performing twice daily, live magic, real-time multiplayer 3D gameplay and many other groundbreaking techniques to produce a brilliant(and award-winning!) show.
We then wrote a handbook for it so what we learned could be shared out to the rest of the UK theatre industry as a way to generate revenues whilst doors are closed. We also focused on strengthening our business, and were awarded places on Creative England's EVOLVE Accelerator, Digital Catapult’s Machine Intelligence Accelerator, and London & Partner's Export Accelerator. As we now come out of lockdown, we feel we are ready and primed for an exciting next phase.
WHO SHOULD HAVE CHARISMA.AI ON THEIR ‘ONES TO WATCH’ LIST?
TV studios and networks looking to retain and attract new audiences are top of our list. We can see audience trends, and the point behind Charisma.ai is to allow TV producers and broadcasters to reach these audiences by adapting existing IP rapidly and without having to reinvent the wheel. Equally, despite our cutting edge technology focus, we are storytellers at heart which is why Charisma.ai's interface is designed for writers to be able to create the stories they want to tell without having to learn to code. Charisma.ai is designed to be a conduit for their storytelling imagination with no barriers.
WHAT NEW OR EMERGING TECHNOLOGIES ARE YOU EXCITED ABOUT RIGHT NOW AND WHY?
We are excited about various deep niches within Artificial Intelligence that make our experiences even more believable. AI voice acting is advancing at pace, as are excellent 3D models like Unreal's Metahuman, and then we have been working with GPT-3 since it was launched which is a very powerful way to semi-automate content creation. Scary in some ways, but it's important to get ahead of these developments to ensure that the creative industries are constantly contributing to its direction of development.
WHAT DO YOU SEE AS THE BIGGEST CHALLENGES FOR CHARISMA.AI OVER THE NEXT 12 MONTHS?
We need to be careful that big tech companies don't sell inappropriate tech into media industries. Most big tech companies create their systems for call centres, retail or big industry, not for creative industries, and a lot of money can be wasted by adopting seemingly useful technology, only to find that it doesn't deliver. Our challenge is to make sure we are seen as a safe pair of hands for the global media industry, despite being based on this side of the Atlantic!
WHO IS ON YOUR ‘ ONES TO WATCH’ LIST AT THE MOMENT AND WHY?
We've been watching (and talking with) Fable Studios in the US as their views on the future of storytelling and virtual beings have fascinating overlaps. We have great conversations about how to solve deep questions about narratives and characters.
We watch WarnerMedia, Netflix, Hulu, Disney, Amazon, NBCU - all of whom are committing to deeper connections to audiences through interactive storytelling in some way. There is fantastic creativity in interactive storytelling across the UK, and we watch and admire the TV, theatre, games, film, comic book creators all the time. At the heart of it, it all comes down to how to tell a cracking story.
Oxford, London, Los Angeles, New York.
FIND OUT MORE ABOUT CHARISMA.AI