With a Ph.D. in artificial intelligence and as the former head of NASA’s AI and robotics unit, Twitch CEO Dan Clancy readily pitches himself as something of a generative AI expert.

Far from seeing the technology as a threat to streaming, Clancy said he’s bullish about generative AI’s ability to enhance the Twitch experience and produce new content genres for creators.

“It’s going to be a boon for livestreaming,” Clancy said in an interview this month at the Cannes Lions advertising festival.

Twitch streamers were early to latch on to the generative AI trend. Memorably, the experimental media lab MisMatch Media used AI and machine learning to create “Nothing, Forever,” a 24/7 streaming animated parody of the popular sitcom “Seinfeld.”

Clancy admits these sorts of streams can quickly become faddish and derivative. Bloomberg reported in November last year that AI-generated shows on Twitch and YouTube were going largely unwatched. They can also be problematic. The “Nothing, Forever” Twitch channel was briefly banned after the AI-generated version of Larry Feinberg went on a transphobic rant.

Clancy said that viewers soon disengage from AI-generated content after the novelty wears off and when they’re unable to forge an emotional connection with a human behind it.

“The reason gaming has worked so well for livestreaming is that a game provides a stimulus that you’re watching that I then react to,” Clancy said. “It’s hard to just sit there and stream and talk without a stimulus.”

Generative AI opens up endless possibilities for stimuli, Clancy said, adding Amazon-owned Twitch is exploring introducing APIs, or application programming interfaces, to make it easier for creators to use the technology. Twitch creators have begun using generative AI to set up debates with fictionalized versions of famous people and historical figures, he said.

He also noted the rise of “VTubers” — creators who use virtual avatars but who often use motion capture software to replicate real human movement. The VTuber Filion, for example, wears a full bodysuit to perform backflips for the camera, which the virtual avatar replicates. The trend was popularized in Japan but was limited to being produced by professional studios because the visual effects software historically cost tens of thousands of dollars to use.

“You’re going to be able to do that with two cameras,” Clancy said of the advances in generative AI.

Music streamers face copyright challenges

Clancy, who often livestreams himself singing and playing the piano on his DJClancy Twitch channel, is also enthusiastic about how music streamers can explore AI technology to generate song lyrics or write a track in the style of a particular artist.

Clancy noted that such content could present challenges from a copyright perspective. Major music labels like Universal Music and Sony Music said they have sent tens of thousands of takedown notices to a variety of AI firms and other tech platforms over unauthorized deepfake versions of their artists’ songs or musical likenesses. This week, music labels and industry groups filed lawsuits against two generative AI startups that allow users to create songs from text prompts, accusing both companies of using copyrighted music to train their models.

“The nature of creation is to build upon what others have done, that’s what we do as human beings,” Clancy said. “The issue is only if a human being gets too close, that’s when it gets problematic. I think it’s all about making sure it’s not too much of a straight ripoff.”

Twitch recently introduced a “DJ Program” to allow DJs to use popular copyrighted music in their streams and split any earned revenue with the artists’ record labels. The documentation for the program, which is due to launch in July or August of this year, doesn’t make any mention of AI-generated music.

Clancy says Twitch isn’t a prime target for AI data scraping

Another hot-button issue is the degree to which AI companies have scraped content on the web to train their models without publishers’ prior permission. At one end of the scale, The New York Times is suing OpenAI and Microsoft for copyright infringement. Other publishers, including Business Insider owner Axel Springer, have struck content licensing agreements with AI companies.

Clancy said a livestreaming platform like Twitch isn’t the primary target of such data crawling.

“If you think, who are you going to go after, us or YouTube?” Clancy said. “Usually, the ones doing this crawling are going after these sites with a vast archive of content, and that’s not us.”

Twitch parent Amazon has invested in and partnered with AI startup Anthropic. Amazon is developing its own large language models and services that allow customers to build generative AI applications in the cloud.

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