We have reached “peak attention.”
That is, we’ve reached an upper limit to the amount of time people can reasonably spend consuming media each day… and we’ve done so at the same time that new creators, channels, and formats are attracting viewers away from traditional media.
While we’re seeing a reduction in time consumers spend watching TV and consuming other so-called “old media,” that decline is being offset by increases in time spent with digital media. In 2019 the total time people spent consuming media in the U.S. was more than 12 hours per day, and more than half of that -- six-and-a-half hours -- was spent on mobile, tablet, and other digital apps and services.
At the same time, it has never been easier to create media, find an audience, and become a media company of one. The widespread availability and use of user-friendly creative tools means that people are no longer just consuming content but are becoming a more active part of the creative process.
And that’s just the beginning. The adoption of new technologies based around artificial intelligence (AI) and synthetic media will further democratize the ability for creators to make highly engaging and interactive content at a much lower cost, which will in turn enable new creative formats and business models to flourish.
A new world of AI-powered content creation
The long-awaited launch of 5G and edge technologies will enable the distribution of high-bandwidth media, immersive mediums, and better multiplayer experiences. Meanwhile, the adoption of synthetic media, or AI-based generation of digital content, will create a paradigm shift in media creation and proliferation.
Synthetic media refers to any artificially generated video, voice, images, or text, where AI takes on part (or all) of the creative process. These new AI-powered creator tools will widen the pool of available creators and reduce the amount of creative work required to produce compelling media.
As a result, we expect synthetic media to democratize the creation of new and creative content experiences. Individuals and companies will be empowered to generate content that would require large Hollywood budgets in the “old world.”
That said, questions remain around the potential impact these technologies will have. For instance, synthetic media will bring fundamental shifts not only in media creation but also in licensing and ownership. And it also comes with serious challenges in the area of content verification.
Specifically, synthetic media will risk leading us to a post-truth world: The battle against online disinformation and malicious intent is just getting started, and it will create increased pressure on content recognition capabilities to help with automated moderation that will become necessary.
Finally, while digitally produced humans and avatars are not real, they have the power to shape human perceptions and attitudes as we interact with them. Therefore, it’s crucial for technologists to make sure they adhere to ethical guidelines and safety standards.
Areas of opportunity
Despite the challenges that face us, we see enormous opportunity in fields like gaming, e-commerce, security, and media and entertainment through the adoption of synthetic media. Below are just a few examples of synthetic media in action that could have a meaningful impact on how consumers and creators interact with the technology.
Top-notch movies for everyone
With the adoption of synthetic media, individuals will soon be able to produce top-notch video movies at their desks, in a quality and with effects that would only previously been possible to those with access to big budgets. Also, instead of hiring actors for a movie or commercial, they will be able to select virtual actors from a catalogue who look and act like humans and customize them to their needs.
Post-edit videos and audio files
Creators are now able to make changes to dialogue spoken in a video or podcast by just editing a text script, even after the media asset was recorded. No more endless reshoots trying to get the audio or video just right.
Individualized fashion models
Clothing brands will be able to offer the ultimate online shopping experience to customers by giving them the chance to see themselves and digital representations of their bodies in clothing advertised on social media and e-commerce sites. This will give consumers the ability to try on entire outfits before adding them to their shopping carts.
Synthetic product placements
Consumers who watch movies, sports, and play games online will see individualized, synthetic product placements tailored to their tastes and needs. For example, a consumer playing a game might see a character wearing a certain brand of sneaker, while her friend who is playing the same game will be served up a different brand of footwear.
Synthetic media will enable celebrities, artists, influencers, and experts to scale their ability to participate in creative projects.
Virtual avatars will become an integral part of consumers’ day-to-day life. They will interact with digital beings in various situations, like being helped in a retail store when no human customer service agent is available or taking orders at fast food chains. They will also instantly help consumers online when they have a question about a product. Virtual avatars will come in all shapes and forms: Some will look like cartoons, others will look and act like real humans, and still others won’t even be embodied.
With the adoption of the metaverse, people will interact with intelligent virtual characters in immersive virtual worlds and games, as well as through audio and augmented reality environments. Humans will play with them, confide and trust in them, learn from them, and be entertained by them. Some could even be representations of our friends, family, or notable acquaintances that are no longer with us.
Digital twins for artists
Synthetic media will enable celebrities, artists, influencers, and experts to scale their ability to participate in creative projects. With so-called “digital twins” representing them, they could be available at any time without limits. Those digital twins could be making movies, hosting concerts, or recording voice overs for commercials, without the need for the actual human to be on set or on stage. For in-demand entertainers, this could result in less fatigue, more bookings, and, of course, more money.
As more and more cameras watch us as we go about our days in public and online, there is greater opportunity for computer vision to automatically register and identify our faces wherever we are. With the help of synthetic media, we’ll be able to swap our faces and bodies on actual videos and images with synthetically altered versions of us. We may look the same to the human eye, but anonymization could alter our relevant digital fingerprints to ensure that machines won’t be able to identify us.
What we are looking for
As a category, synthetic media has a wide range of applications, but at Samsung Next, we’re hoping to focus on areas where we see the greatest potential impact.
As a result, we are focusing on investing in startups that are working on building tools for creators, as well as new consumption models and discovery experiences for users and their underlying infrastructure.
We’ll invest in infrastructure companies for the aggregation, delivery, optimization and monetization of content, as well as material technology that support the larger ecosystem of professional and non-professional creators. By investing in creator tools and infrastructure, we believe we can benefit from value creation in the whole ecosystem.
To learn more, check out the rest of Component on synthetic media, or download our Synthetic Media Landscape at syntheticmedialandscape.com.