The founder and CEO of Midjourney, David Holz, has some truly inspiring views around how AI image generation will transform the gaming industry. During the short time we spoke this week, I had to hold myself back from falling too deep into the AI rabbit hole. In the process, I discovered Holz's view on how this kind of tech will develop and how it's likely to benefit the gaming industry, as well as human creativity as a whole.
Holz believes that one day in the near future, "you'll be able to buy a console with a giant AI chip and all the games will be dreams."
It's a beautiful sentiment for sure, but it's the physics of current technology that's holding us back from exploring the full potential of AI in games. Right now these kinds of AI generators use excruciating amounts of graphical power, and it's just not practical for the kind of utopian visions Holz and I have dreamed of.
He tells me that Midjourney's produces images using algorithms that "all run on the cloud, and they're running on very big GPUs—like $40,000 GPU servers … I think it's fair to say that it's the most compute-heavy consumer application that's ever existed."
That's a lot of energy and a great deal of money to sink into anything, but Holz truly believes in the benefits of the technology Midjourney is pioneering.
He tells me it's already being used as a way of self soothing after a traumatic event. "Some of them are actually using the AI in a purely therapeutic process. And it's hard to understand that, but you'll see weird images and you'll ask them 'why are you doing Maltese dogs in heaven?' And they'll say 'it's because my dogs just died.' And you're like 'oh my god, are you okay?'"
Of course, there's always that looming fear around AI replacing humans, but Holz has a much more positive outlook.
"We're not trying to build God, we're trying to amplify the imaginative powers of the human species," he says.
He makes it clear it's not about designing tech to replace people, it's about the "proliferation of the visual means to express yourself. It just means that people will become more visual in our culture, and more appreciative of those kinds of things. And there'll be more opportunity around that than there was before."
I'm much in the same mind, and having come from a game art and design background I can certainly see its potential in idea generation for concept artists.
"Before you see video games being generated on the fly, you're gonna see the technologies being used for every step of the asset generation pipeline, to increase the creativity of the content, the quality of the content, and the amount of the content," says Holz. "...you're gonna have game studios using AI to help bake out lots of assets, textures, terrain, layouts and characters. Even if it takes ten minutes to make a high quality character, that's still much faster than it would take during the normal production process.
"One would hope that in ten years time there's no longer static content because everything is generated on the fly. So in theory, the barriers between consuming something and creating something fall away, and it becomes like liquid imagination flowing around the room.
"Everything between now and then is a combination of increasing the quality, being able to do things like 3D, making things faster, making things higher resolution, and having smaller and smaller chips doing more and more stuff."
So it seems we just have to wait for the technology to catch up. And it is catching up, fast. There are, albeit less powerful, AI image generators that run on consumer hardware, and it's only a matter of time before these algorithms are even more efficient and involved, so we can get down to generating entire triple A games as we play.