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Festival crowd boos at video of conference speakers gushing about how great AI is

Camilo Fonseca   

Festival crowd boos at video of conference speakers gushing about how great AI is
  • The audience at a SXSW festival roundly booed a video promoting the positive impact of AI.
  • The speakers in the video suggested people stop resisting AI advances and embrace the tech.

Not all audience members at South by Southwest are thrilled about AI — and they made it known by booing during a brief video on the topic that played ahead of a screening.

Video emerged on social media of the audience loudly booing a conference sizzle reel that featured several industry leaders speaking positively about AI.

The sizzle reel played before several film premieres at the festival, including "The Fall Guy" and "Immaculate," Variety reported. SXSW did not return a request for comment before publication.

The reel featured several speakers and panelists from previous events at the conference, including Peter Deng, vice president of consumer product at ChatGPT-creator OpenAI, and Sandy Carter, COO of Unstoppable Domains, among others.

Carter's urge to "be an AI thinker" didn't go over well. "You know your business is going to be disrupted. You need to stop resisting and start learning," she said, her words drowned out by the crowd.

"Be one of those people that leverages AI. Don't get run over by it," said Rony Abovitz, Magic Leap's founder and former CEO, in the video — another comment that elicited boos. Abovitz more recently founded Sun and Thunder, a startup leveraging AI characters and storytelling.

Another round of boos can be heard when OpenAI's Peter Deng said: "I actually fundamentally believe that AI makes us more human."

In a statement to BI, Carter said her SXSW panel on the future of AI was "a standout event." She added that the audience showed "a high level of engagement and interest," and had voiced their "enthusiasm and support for positive developments" in the field of AI.

The other panelists shown in the sizzle reel did not return requests for comment before publication.

Variety noted that much of the audience was likely made up of professionals in the film industry, including actors and screenwriters who just months ago were on strike — and for whom AI was a major concern.

In resolving the strikes, the studios made several concessions on AI, agreeing to prohibit it from being used to rewrite original material for scripts, and requiring the consent of actors before reproducing their likenesses digitally.

The growing impact of AI is a concern felt across the film industry. After OpenAI announced its new generative video tool, Sora, earlier this year, Tyler Perry canceled the expansion of his film studios, calling the technology impressive and a potential cost-saver while also voicing concern that it could threaten jobs in the film industry.

Several startups are actively working to integrate AI with film production. At the moment, most of these applications are for post-production areas like digital and sound effects — but there are indications that the technology could go far beyond that.

A recent commercial produced by Under Armour has stoked that fear after it emerged that the minute-long clip was produced with the help of AI. The ad includes an AI-generated voiceover and repackaged shots filmed for previous commercials, AdAge reported.

Despite the backlash against the commercial, a studio executive responsible for producing the spot told AdAge that critics of AI use were being "irrational."

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