What's it planning?

Illuminating News

On Wednesday, ChatGPT maker OpenAI announced its acquisition of a small "digital product company" called Global Illumination. Its chief product? An open-source video game called "Biomes," which appears to be a more or less a clone of "Minecraft."

"The entire team has joined OpenAI to work on our core products including ChatGPT," OpenAI said on its official blog.

It then praised Global Illumination as "a company that has been leveraging AI to build creative tools, infrastructure, and digital experiences."

"We're very excited for the impact they'll have here at OpenAI," it added.

If this all seems a little inscrutable, here's a clue: among Global Illumination's trio of co-founders is Thomas Dimson, who authored Instagram's content ranking algorithm — so he's kind of a big deal, in other words.

Unknown Expectations

Beyond that, OpenAI's motivations are hard to parse. Since it enjoys a multi-billion dollar partnership with Microsoft — which owns the real "Minecraft" — it would be strange to acquire another company just for its "Minecraft" knock off, which is open source besides.

There may be more to this than meets the eye. It's possible that OpenAI wants to make AI models, like GPT-4, smarter by training them to navigate 3D worlds which resemble real life, e.g. Minecraft, as other AI researchers have done recently. Or, just maybe, OpenAI could be hoping to release a game imbued with some form of AI as a potential new stream for revenue or hype.

If OpenAI isn't going to branch out into video games, it's picked itself up a strong crew. But if it is, its technology might seem better suited, from a cynical developer's point of view, for use in open world video games and MMORPGs, which are filled with NPCs that talk and interact with players.

Notably, few triple-A game developers have jumped on the technology, at least so far. Ubisoft is one exception, experimenting with an in-house generative AI tool that can help write video game dialog. But that's still just a tool to help human writers do the heavy lifting, instead of an AI that generates NPC lines entirely on its own.

With this latest move, OpenAI could be striking while the iron is hot in a games industry that hasn't fully caught on with generative AI. But at this point, it's all just speculation.

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