Artificial intelligence has hopped out of the computer, rented out a building in Auckland’s CBD and wants to turn you into the piece of art you are.
HyperCinema - created here in New Zealand by Dr Miles Gregory and Tarver Graham - is the newest form of entertainment in the world and another unreal reminder we are in the future.
Because it’s the first-ever on Earth, it’s hard to label what kind of entertainment Hypercinema is. While it’s marketed as a “live AI experience” that blends “theatre, film and digital technology”, Dr. Gregory made it clear that it's not here to make movies and TV extinct.
Watch me venture into my Multiverse here:
Your face and personality are how HyperCinema sets itself apart from the art forms of old. You get 15 photos of your face taken from different angles, then answer a questionnaire - mine started by asking what my fave vegetable was and ended by demanding to know what I thought the biggest threat to humanity was. Deep stuff, but the questions are always changing, cos that's how AI rolls.
All of this information is stored on your cube - a green, glowing accessory that you carry around for the whole experience and insert into different sockets to transfer your info onto whatever screen is in front of you. Upon inserting your cube, the “live AI experience” starts.
First stop - the movies, featuring you. The long, dark room has an old-timey cinema vibe, except you get your own personal lamp and retro couch facing a screen meant just for you and your mates to watch. Alongside you, a bunch of other people are doing the same thing, but the audio is wired so you can just hear your dialogue.
Take a seat post-cube insertion and, in five minutes, you will be impressed and creeped out. The AI has taken your photos and superimposed your face on a variety of made-up characters in different situations.
I was a James Bond-type character in one moment, a Princess Bride in the next, and at one point, I was even a whole family eating dinner... I was my own mum and my own kids. I watched myself in different realities. Narrated by an AI voiceover reading from an AI-generated script, the story of these characters involved my questionnaire answers.
It wasn't as realistic as I thought, but the feeling I got when I first saw 'me' on the big screen was unlike anything I'd ever experienced.
In the next stage, you enter an art gallery with you as the subject. Again, it’s a multiverse vibe as you become a samurai, a Studio Ghibli movie character, a boxer, a clown and more. Each photo comes with a blurb that, like a mad lib, applies your answers to whatever you're looking at.
The AI doesn’t always get it right, which is fun. You’ll end up with your hair weaving into a hut in the background or a hand where your nipple should be.
The experience is wild and attention-grabbing and hilarious. It truly is nothing I've ever seen before and that's where its entertainment factor lies: purely because it's so unusual and peculiar.
Beyond that craziness of seeing a literal once-in-forever piece of content about you, there isn't much else to it.
Before I entered the experience, Dr. Gregory told me his creation was different to other art forms - film, theatre, TV etc. - as it could create captivating chronicles unique to the user.
“It’s about you,” he said. “It shows different versions of you in a compelling story based on your answers - multiple compelling stories.”
While there are recognisable plot lines in the multiverse movie (such as Seth, the successful stoke-broker who lost it all, or Seth, the world-class actor with bizarre methods), calling them 'compelling' is a stretch.
It was more of a mush of movie trailers. I only saw beginnings and character descriptions, no conflicts or crescendos were covered in any depth, just mentioned. Again, it is strangely awesome seeing yourself as these characters and their backstory is related to your life (your questionnaire answers), the stories just don't go anywhere exciting.
I may have just gotten the short end of the AI's wire. Everyone has a "hyper-personalised outcome" based on their answers so if you're a more interesting person than me (not that hard to do), you may get a more interesting movie.
Decades down the circuit board, I can see this becoming a genre of entertainment that is truly invigorating. As it learns to ask deeper questions and form longer stories with intricate, original plot lines, people will become more and more keen to see themselves in these ‘compelling’ and ‘hyper-personalised’ stories.
If ChatGPT was the baby picking up a ball, Hypercinema is the toddler learning to throw and catch it - fun to see a couple of times and gives the parents a proud smile. But that toddler is not ready to truly change the game, not just yet.
Give it ten years and I can easily see HyperCinema creating genuinely amazing stories and becoming a reliable entertainment genre. For now, though, it is just a lot of fun seeing yourself as the star of the trippiest show on earth.