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September 28th, 2020 | by

Discover AGENCE, an AI-powered storytelling develop by Transitional Forms and the NFB

Accessible on most major VR headsets, Steam for PC, and mobile device app stores, the interactive short dynamic film invites “Visitors” to decide if they would play god to AI

Filmmaking sets a new course today as Toronto-based studio-lab Transitional Forms and the National Film Board of Canada (NFB) introduce the first short dynamic film, Agence. Dynamic film is a new medium blending artificial intelligence (AI), cinematic storytelling and interactivity to never tell the same story twice. Agence debuted earlier this month at the prestigious Venice International Film Festival and is available now for purchase for VR, PC or mobile.

Agence asks a poignant question: “Would you play god to intelligent life?” This short dynamic film places the fate of artificially intelligent creatures called Agents into the hands of “Visitors” who enter the experience. In a simulated universe, Visitors have the power to simply observe—or to directly interfere. Their actions either maintain the balance of the Agents’ peaceful existence or throw them into chaos.

Agence was created by Pietro Gagliano, founder of Transitional Forms, a studio-lab pioneering new forms of entertainment using creative machine intelligence. Gagliano’s work has been recognized with hundreds of awards and nominations, including two Emmy Awards, 11 Canadian Screen Awards, 31 FWAs, two Webby Awards, a Peabody-Facebook Award, and a Cannes Lion. Agence was produced by the NFB Ontario Studio’s David Oppenheim (Draw Me Close, The Book of Distance) and Casey Blustein of Transitional Forms. Executive producers are Gagliano and the NFB’s Anita Lee (Stories We Tell).

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Based on their learnings throughout the development of Agence, Transitional Forms and the NFB are planning the creation of additional AI training tools this fall, under the name Project Gilgamesh. This initiative aims to use storytelling as a framework to both develop and learn from artificial intelligence. The team will continue to refine this technology and push the boundaries of using reinforcement learning to train new characters for dynamic content to think for themselves.

Agence is just the beginning—the modern version of a silent film that we hope kicks off the next generation of filmmaking,” said creator Pietro Gagliano. “We are asking the audience to consider the human responsibility that comes with creating artificially intelligent life, and we hope Agence is a culturally relevant contribution in the development of virtual beings. As the future rapidly unfolds, I believe that storytelling will play a key role in creating mutual empathy between humans and intelligent machines.”

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AI community to contribute to Agence

Behind the scenes, the Agence team keeps new Agent “Brains” on a constant training regimen—the reinforcement learning process powering each character, looping millions of times, doling out positive and negative rewards along the way to make them incrementally smarter and more layered. These are also being added to the dynamic film via future updates, to keep the experience fresh and unique. In addition, the Agence team is inviting technically minded collaborators, engineers and enthusiasts in the AI community to use their openly available production tools to train and submit their own AI Brains. The team will then select the best ones to integrate via future updates to Agence.

“The NFB and Transitional Forms’ decision to open up the tech behind Agence for people to train their own Brains is a major step forward for AI-powered filmmaking,” said NFB producer David Oppenheim. “As Transitional Forms, the NFB and, eventually, other creators continue developing the concept of dynamic film, we hope to push the medium of film even further than recent industry experiments with ‘choose-your-own-adventure’ films—we want to let the Visitor and the AI they interact with morph and alter the story as it unfolds in real time.”

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