||home / march 2002 / chasing otakuism
Realize Your Anime Fantasies with Your Computer
By guest columnist Neil Creek
The title of this article sounds like it might be a catch line for otaku computer addicts anonymous, but it's actually a prediction of what will come in the near future. Computer development, both in software and hardware, is progressing at an ever-increasing rate. Within the next two or three decades, we will see computers catch up with and surpass us as intelligent beings.
Any skill or faculty that you can imagine a human capable of, computers, or Non-Biological Intelligences (NBI), will be able to do. And they’ll be able to do it much better - calculate mathematical formulas, search through mountains of data for obscure patterns, have meaningful and intellectual conversations, create music and art, fall in love.
Skeptical? You have a right to be so. Miracles have been promised of computers in the past, and have yet to come true, but the direction and speed of progress makes these outcomes seem inevitable.
Once computers reach the capabilities of humans, they will necessarily exceed them, and by an amazing margin. Computers are already masters at storing and retrieving trillions of pieces of information rapidly and flawlessly, as well as lightning-fast calculation. When this is combined with reasoning, creativity and pattern recognition, their potential will seem unlimited from our biological perspective.
What has this got to do with anime? Let's consider some hypothetical situations non-biological intelligence could help realize:
Scenario 1: You're a fan fiction writer, and have an awesome idea for an anime story. You want to create a whole world in the style of your favorite anime director, but it'll be completely new. You sit down in front of your computer, a very large screen on the wall. You tell the computer, which you've named "Lum", what you want to do with this story.
You describe the main characters, and as you do, a picture of them appears on screen. You refine them down till they look exactly how you want them to. Next comes the world. The setting is described, and from your loose suggestions and ideas, the computer paints in all the details and you are left with something that matches your vision.
The process is the same throughout the whole project. You start with broad generalizations, which the computer illustrates with the skill of Miyazaki. You then refine the details where the computer guessed wrong, and add your creative flair. The end result is a professional quality animation, with characters of your design, and a story completely your own. One person could create whole movies or TV series this way.
Scenario 2: For years you've craved the latest releases from Japan, but you've had to wait for the fansubs to come out before you can really enjoy a show. Even then, the quality is far from what the original broadcast was. The dub, of course, will take months or years, and to many purists is often a Disappointment.
One day the leading anime production studio develops some new software that you can buy and add to your video player. How this software works is that it has the 'voice profile' of each voice actor from a title. This profile defines how the voice sounds, but not what language it uses. The original soundtrack is recorded in Japanese, but the software does a real-time translation of the show, and generates an audio track based on the sound
profile of the actor. Effectively the result is that you hear what the voice actors would sound like if they spoke in the language of your choice, even though they may only speak Japanese themselves.
Even cultural references and puns would be translated as effectively as a master human translator could if given days to work on it. Due to the incredible speed of the computer, this is all done in real-time.
Scenario 3: The ultimate fantasy of any fan is to 'be there' and 'do that'. Simulation technology continually improves, and benefits from the parallel artificial intelligence development. A smart agent could examine your favorite anime series, and from that create an utterly convincing virtual world that is consistent to the fantasy one.
The characters of the series act and react as they do in the show, but you can interact with them, creating new stories and plot lines as a result of your actions. You could pilot an EVA unit, match-make Yota and Moemi or beat the stuffing out of Koutarou Nanbara.
Tying in to the first scenario, you could create your very own anime world, set up the back-story, characters and motivations, and then take the lead role yourself and see what happens. With the storytelling brilliance of a Pulitzer Prize winner, you can be sure that the AI in control of it all would show you a great time.
These scenarios only scratch the surface of the potential of super-fast non-biological intelligences that help us realize our creative fantasies. In fact, the only limit to this potential is our imagination.
The near future will be very exciting and lots of fun. It will only be a few years till some of these fantasies can become reality. Others will take longer. On thing is for sure, the truth, as always will be more amazing than the prediction.
Oh, and one last thought... Future virtual realities will be totally believable and stimulate every sense. Fanboys around the world will finally get to find out what than darned fool Ataru has been missing out on.
Neil Creek is the webmaster of Graviton City: The Project A-Ko Web Site (http://www.gravitoncity.com.