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Madonna among the early adopters of text-to-video AI


Whenever Madonna sings the 1980s hit "La Isla Bonita" on her concert tour, moving images of swirling, sunset-tinted clouds play on the giant arena screens behind her.

To get that ethereal look, the pop legend embraced a still-uncharted branch of generative artificial intelligence – a text-to-video tool. Type some words. Say, "surreal cloud sunset" or "waterfall in the jungle at dawn," and a video is instantly made.

Following in the footsteps of AI chatbots and still image-generators, some AI video enthusiasts say the emerging technology could one day upend entertainment, enabling you to choose your own movie with customizable storylines and endings. But there's a long way to go before they can do that and plenty of ethical pitfalls along the way.

For early adopters like Madonna, who's long pushed art's boundaries, it was more of an experiment. She nixed an earlier version of "La Isla Bonita" concert visuals that used more conventional computer-generated imagery (CGI) to evoke a tropical mood.

"We tried CGI. It looked pretty bland and cheesy, and she didn't like it. And then we decided to try AI," said Sasha Kasiuha, content director for Madonna's Celebration Tour that continues through late April.

Madonna's team tried a product from New York-based startup Runway, which helped pioneer the technology by releasing its first public text-to-video model last March.

Runway CEO Cristóbal Valenzuela said while some see these tools as a "magical device that you type a word and somehow it conjures exactly what you had in your head," the most effective approaches are by creative professionals looking for an upgrade to the decades-old digital editing software they're already using.

However, dangers abound. Without adequate safeguards, AI video generators could threaten democracies with convincing "deepfake" videos of things that never happened, or as is already the case with AI image generators, flood the internet with fake pornographic scenes depicting what appears to be real people with recognizable faces. Under pressure from regulators, major tech companies have promised to watermark AI-generated content to help identify what's real.

There also are copyright disputes brewing about the video and image collections the AI systems are being trained on and the extent to which they are unfairly replicating trademarked works.

(With input from AP. Cover via CFP.)

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