Image credit: Lux Aeterna for ‘Our Universe’ (Netflix)

This call has now closed.


MyWorld Challenge Call

In February 2024, Digital Catapult will be launching the second MyWorld Challenge Call, titled Amplifying Imagination – Exploring AI in the Creative Industries funded by UKRI Strength In Places. The theme looks to address Artificial Intelligence (AI) solutions optimising or enabling creative approaches or processes, specifically addressing industry challenges related to the creation, delivery, and evaluation of experiences. The call will invite businesses to apply for £50,000 of funding to address commercial industry-led challenges in partnership with partners Amazon Web Services (AWS) and BBC Research & Development, as well as an opportunity for companies to explore their own challenges – aiming to build products, processes, services or innovative experimental prototypes that demonstrate clear advancements in the exploration, application or adaptation of AI technologies within the creative industries.

Why AI?

The use of new technologies to assist, automate, analyse and generate within the creative industries is nothing new. From the early days of computers through to modern advances in AI research, artists and engineers have used algorithms and generative methods to inform and create art. Since the boom in deep learning research, however, this pace has intensified and new avenues have opened.

As part of the previous MyWorld Challenge Call, Catalysts and Connectors: Tools for the Creative Industries, we invited companies from the West of England region to apply for funding to develop new or existing digital tools to catalyse and connect production processes in the creative industries. Two projects in particular focused on the use of new AI techniques to aid the exploration and generation of content.

Meaning Machine, based in Bristol, was formed to explore the intersection of natural language AI and games, with a focus on character dialogue.

Image credit: Meaning Machine

Founders Ben Ackland and Thomas Keane recognised the tension between new technologies and creative intent early on:

“As a mix of creatives and technologists, we believe that AI is only as powerful as the people wielding it. Making large language models (LLMs) more accessible to creatives is empowering them (and us) to explore a whole host of new experiences.”

The initial exploration led to them implementing a ‘live commentary’ for an existing Chess game, building characters and implementing their framework of ‘Game Consciousness’ to generate relevant dialogue and strategy for the players in realtime.

Another company, Lux Aeterna, took a different approach – exploring the use of diffusion image generation models to create intermediary steps within the VFX process, rather than the final image.

Image credit: Lux Aeterna

An example of this is the generation of interior environments using parallax mapping. The team created a pipeline to guide diffusion models through ControlNet in order to generate hundreds of iterations of different interiors in various styles, these were then processed using further models to create normal and depth maps, allowing them to imagine potentially infinite building interiors.

"By exploring the potential of generative AI, our goal isn’t just to develop specific AI-assisted VFX workflows, but to develop our ability to tackle the unique challenges each project presents with bespoke AI-assisted solutions, and put the tools of the future into the hands of our talented artists."

This was just part of the team’s work, all off the back of creative ideation at the start of the process supported by Digital Catapult.

Both of these teams recognised the possibilities and potential challenges of using AI within their creative companies but found immense value in the funding and time to explore them with the support of Digital Catapult’s 16 week accelerator and support programme.

What are we looking for?

This Amplifying Imagination funding call is inviting developers, creative studios or businesses, startups and SMEs to accelerate projects which address the theme of using AI within the creative industries. Businesses can apply from both within the West of England region and beyond, as long as they can demonstrate meaningful impact in the region, FAQ document.

The funding could be used to create a new prototype or accelerate the development of an existing product or service. With our industry partners AWS and BBC we have defined some real world challenge areas that are aligned with long-term commercial opportunities. We’d really like to see some applicants address these challenges head-on, but it’s not mandatory.

AWS Challenge

Amazon Web Services (AWS) provides the infrastructure and platforms for thousands of creative companies across the globe, from serverless compute, transcoding services to media storage, AWS has been partly responsible for the growth in the technology sector over the past 20 years. With the recent advances in AI and Machine Learning, AWS is interested in what this can mean for SMEs in the creative industries.

AWS’ focus is on how AI can relieve some of the manually intensive and laborious tasks within the creative sector through automation, analysis and optimisation. Not the removal of the human, but freeing them up to work on interesting and exciting creative challenges that create competitive advantages for them, the West of England region and can help to grow the sector.

Some of the questions that might be explored as part of the AWS challenge are :

  • What tools and approaches may be available to facilitate generation at an early creative stage to stimulate discussion and creative ideation?
  • How can we enhance the user experience, for example, by creating personalisation or recommendation services, or using data analysis to improve automated problem resolution?
  • How can content be adapted for different uses, such as upscaling and downscaling or frame interpolation? Could data be cleaned in early preparation stages? Can old content be repurposed by using restoration techniques?
BBC Challenge

The BBC is a renowned institution in the realm of broadcasting and media, known for its commitment to delivering high-quality content to a diverse global audience with a rich history in audio production. The BBC’s dedication to pushing the boundaries of technology and enhancing the audio experience for its broad and varied audience has led to the focus of this challenge exploring the potential of AI solutions in addressing the complex challenges of ensuring a consistent audio experience across diverse devices and environments.

BBC’s focus is on empowering listeners and audio engineers to effortlessly craft diverse listening experiences, the projects could explore one of the following areas :

  • How can we use AI technologies to overcome the many challenges in ensuring a consistent and optimal audio experience for diverse listeners across various devices and environments?
  • What AI solutions could be created for capture, recreation or output of audio mixed and produced in one setting, but played back/consumed in another?
Open Challenge

In addition to the industry challenges presented by AWS and BBC, the call is looking to fund applicable projects across the Creative Continuum. What follows are some examples of the kinds of projects the programme may look to support, but bear in mind these examples are to illustrate the kinds of questions that might be explored, this is not exhaustive, and only supplied to stimulate the imagination!

  • The exploration of AI technologies to enable creatives to achieve things they would otherwise be unable to.
  • Analysis and interpretation of large data sets to provide insights into creative
  • Exploring the challenge of ownership, authorship and copyright in a world where content creation is potentially automated
  • Addressing ethical questions ensuring responsible and fair use, and exploring the impact of AI on cultural representation and sensitivity in creative works.
  • Exploring the intersection of adaptive and responsive audience experience and the audience themselves.
What’s Available?

The MyWorld programme will award £50,000 for the acceleration, development or provision of a prototype, process or product alongside a 16-week accelerator programme of product, design and tailored technical and business support, delivered by Digital Catapult. There is no match funding required and no equity is taken. Accompanying programme benefits from programme sponsors AWS and BBC, such as bespoke mentorship, cloud credits, access to expertise, workshops and introductions and potential routes to commercialisation in regional, national and international markets may also be offered.

The projects will also be featured in MyWorld showcases and, if appropriate, will be encouraged and supported to consider bidding into future MyWorld calls to further support development of the idea.

This call has now closed.