Entertainment’s Future

A group of 38 people gathered to listen to Tawny Schlieski, a research scientist in Intel’s Interface and User Experience group discuss the future of technology in the entertainment industry in the Evoke Lab in the Catlit 2 building on Wednesday, Oct. 16.
Schlieski gave a lecture on the development of new technologies and methods of future electronic entertainment. Schlieski’s group develops new technologies for entertainment companies to expand the storytelling capabilities of digital media and does not create stories. She believes that even with great technology those that write the scripts must have a part in the production of storytelling hardware and software.

“I think in the past we’ve really not understood the message in that we cannot imagine what tools are needed by great storytellers without talking to great storytellers,” Schlieski said. She works to get the input of entertainment producers so that her technologies will help lead to the creation of tomorrow’s entertainment.

According to Schlieski, the fusion of digital technology and entertainment production is nothing new. Beginning in the 2000s, movie production companies began to use digital mapping to plan out the production of movies before arriving on set. This allowed producers to “figure out what was possible and what was not possible” before arriving on set.

Video game companies began to utilize virtual mapping even before movie companies discovered its benefits to create video games, allowing players to experience their entertainment through acting through the game to enhance their own experience.
As time went on, digital technology developed further to allow players to influence their entertainment experiences. This started in the realm of video games with custom characterization, map building, item creation and other features. Game developers were able to create games with more features and more malleable worlds that could be manipulated by in game players beyond mere item creation.

This development came with the concept of ‘mods,’ or player-created expansions to games that included maps, characters and even player-created stories. This opened a new door, allowing players to become storytellers as well. This development is revolutionizing the way people interact with their sources of entertainment.
This is best illustrated by the game “Little Big Planet” and its sequel “Little Big Planet 2” which allows players to create characters, settings and unique stories for other players to play out. “Little Big Planet” is reported to have sold over 3 million copies worldwide. However, Schlieski would not be impressed and feels that successful games are still not popular enough with consumers.

“If I look at Halo, if I look at World of Warcraft, and Minecraft … they all tap out at around 12 million users, and 12 million is a lot of people don’t get me wrong, but when you compare that to television properties, when you compare that to movie properties, when you compare that to narrative properties; that show is going to get cancelled on the CW. That’s not pulling in the right degree of audience attention to be mainstream.”

Schlieski attributes this limit is to the specialization of video game controls, which she believes restricts gamers and non-gamers alike from buying games on systems they don’t own. Consoles are expensive and use different controllers, which encourages consumers to stick to one console instead of learning how to use another console and its controller.

“What we’ve shown over and over and over again is that there is a relatively small group of people who are willing to learn a second language of game controller.”

Schlieski’s main focus is to allow new consumers to enjoy new products without having to get used to new features or controls.
She believes her team has a possible solution, a multi-layered entertainment system that incorporates elements of movies and video games into one complete package. The current pilot, known as “The Whale,” is a prototype program developed by her lab and students and staff from USC that allows the viewer to follow a number of characters in real time and influence their environment.

The prototype is still in development and experiencing many problems, but Schlieski feels her team may be able to create a new source of entertainment for future consumers. However she feels no matter how effective her technology becomes it will never be able to replace the storyteller and that there will always be a need for those who can tell thought-provoking stories in the entertainment industry.

“We still have not cracked the code of how to create a good story, and quite frankly nobody has.”