The Future of (Synthetic) Media

In recent years ‘synthetic media’ has emerged as a catch-all term used to describe video, image, text and voice that has been fully or partially generated by computers. The ability for AI-driven systems to generate audiovisual content is, in our minds, one of the most exciting developments enabled by recent progress in deep learning. We are about to see a major paradigm shift in media creation and consumption that will likely change the equation for entire industries.

Synthetic media will significantly accelerate creative expression and lessen the gap between idea and content. It will bring with it new methods of communication and storytelling, enable unprecedented human-computer interfaces and challenge our perception of where the digital realm begins and ends.

We founded Synthesia in 2017 to take the lead in bringing these new technologies to the world. You might have seen our recent work with David Beckham speaking 9 different languages, exemplifying how AI will empower humans to communicate in new, better ways.

David Beckham speaking nine languages using Synthesia technology. Collaboration between David Beckham, Malaria No More, Synthesia, R/GA & Ridley Scott Associates.

But synthetic media also brings with it questions around how we consume and contextualise media. The societal impact of this new category of technologies has been a hot topic in the press over the last two years. The ability to generate Hollywood-grade, or better, visual effects without the budget, time or skill traditionally required opens up the potential for both good and bad.

Our mission is to build synthetic media technologies that maximise human creativity and minimise harmful use of AI. This post outlines our vision for the future of synthetic media and has been born from conversations with researchers, entertainment producers, news organisations, government, celebrities, big tech, advertisers, politicians, NGOs and beyond over the last three years.

AI-driven photo synthesis and editing.
Research by Nvidia.

From the beginning of time the way in which we create and share our stories has been in constant flux: we’ve gone from cave paintings and printing press to internet, cameras, PhotoShop and Snapchat filters.

All these technologies for creative expression and communication has had a significant impact on society and human relations. Mostly for good, but also for bad. Creative expression is a powerful tool to spread and communicate important ideas and causes but it is an equally powerful tool to spread misinformation and polarisation.

This has been true throughout history for each iteration of media technologies; criminals enjoy the benefits of telephones and the internet as much as any law abiding office worker.

Gutenberg had a harder time than any of todays tech tycoons ever had.

At Synthesia we are excited about this new future we are moving into and we’re aware of responsibility we have as a company. It is clear to us that artificial intelligence and similarly powerful technologies cannot be built with ethics as an afterthought. It needs to be front and centre, an integral part of the company: reflected in both company policy and in the technology we are building.