Do you ever wonder what will happen when we can’t tell what’s real anymore? We’re about to find out.

You can’t tell this new Toys R Us promo was made with OpenAI’s Sora. The company shared the new video at the 2024 Cannes Lions Festival, the international brand marketing conference and expo. The video was produced by Native Foreign, a creative agency with alpha access to Sora. The remarkable thing about this is that it is not obviously made with AI, or any kind of special effects. Successful technology, like electricity, disappears. It just is.

Emergence AI Agents Out of Stealth with $97.2M. They are building agents to perform tasks typically handled by knowledge workers, in part by routing these tasks to first- and third-party generative AI models like OpenAI’s GPT-4o. Co-founders include Satya Nitta, the former head of global AI solutions at IBM’s research division. The funding comes from Learn Capital plus credit lines totaling over $100 million.

Etched secures $120M in funding to take on Nvidia It developed the ‘Sohu’ chip, which they claim is an “order of magnitude” improvement in speed and affordability compared to Nvidia’s Blackwell chips. This week Etched announced a $120M round led by Primary Venture Partners and Positive Sum Ventures, and angels including Peter Thiel, Stanley Druckenmiller, and David Siegel.

Stability AI Gets a New Lease on Life in Rescue Led by Sean Parker. The founder of Napster and early money in Facebook, now becomes Exec Chair of the board. Existing investors, including Greycroft and Coatue Management, participated in the bail-out. The amount raised remains undisclosed, but the new CEO, Prem Akkaraju, a former visual effects tech exec, says Stability has $80M in cash to, er, stabilize the company. Known for its super fast open-source text-to-image/video/audio generative AI, StabilityAI’s finances spun out of control under the former CEO, Emad Mostaque, who departed in March. Stability AI plans to leverage Akkaraju’s visual effects background to expand its managed image, video, and audio pipelines, custom enterprise models, and content production tools.

Hedra is a new AI video tool that lets you create animated speaking characters. Hedra’s Character-1 model allows users to create lip-synced videos from a still image, adding expressive movements and greater levels of animation. It’s currently free during the research preview, allowing users to experiment and help test the model and moderation tools. Despite a 30-second video cap and low resolution, Hedra is one of those rare things that makes me go ‘wow.’ Future plans include creating a multimodal studio for fully controllable and realistic characters capable of expressive dialogue, movement, etc.

YouTube is in negotiations with major record labels to secure licenses for their music to be used in AI song-generation tools. The platform is offering significant upfront payments but is encountering resistance from artists concerned about the potential devaluation of their work. YouTube, which has already tested a generative AI tool called “Dream Track,” seeks to expand its AI music capabilities and potentially integrate them into YouTube Shorts. At the same time, the music industry is actively opposing unlicensed AI usage, with top companies suing AI startups Suno and Udio for copyright infringement.

The Visual Dome Is A Parallel World, Made With AI. Meticulously crafted (prompted?) by photographer and musician Tony Rapacioli, “The Visual Dome” is an in-depth parallel world created using generative AI. “The Dome is not perfect, it’s a real world, just like ours. They have a single inhabited planet like ours, we call our planet Earth, they call theirs the Dome.” Rapacioli explained. “They have boundaries like ours, we call them countries, they call them Districts. Bloodlines dictate status. Districts dictate quality of life. The similarities are very prominent. It’s a world that feels strangely familiar and completely different at the same time.” In just over 18 months The Visual Dome has amassed a following of over 600,000 on Instagram alone, giving birth to a dedicated fanbase called Domers.

This column, once called “This Week in XR,” is also a podcast hosted by author Charlie Fink, Ted Schilowitz, former studio executive and co-founder of Red Camera, and Rony Abovitz, founder of Magic Leap. Friday, August 28th, our guest is AWE Hall of Fame honoree, a pioneering 3D developer, author, entrepreneur and artist Tony Parisi. We can be found on Spotify, iTunes, and YouTube.

What We’re Reading

Here We Go Again: Major Record Labels Sue AI Music Generators for Copyright Infringement (Shelley Palmer)

Mobile AR, MR Surge At AWE 2024 (Charlie Fink/Forbes)

Glasses, Gadgets, Haptics, And Playing Around At AWE 2024. (Charlie Fink/Forbes)

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