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Friday,  April 19, 2024 6:49 PM 

How will “Sora,” OpenAI’s new text-to-video tool, impact the travel industry?

How will “Sora,” OpenAI’s new text-to-video tool, impact the travel industry?
A screenshot of a video depicting a woman walking down a Tokyo street. The video was generated by OpenAI's new text-to-video AI model, Sora. (OpenAI)
Michael Pihach

Michael Pihach is an award-winning journalist with a keen interest in digital storytelling. In addition to PAX, Michael has also written for CBC Life, Ryerson University Magazine, IN Magazine, and Michael joins PAX after years of working at popular Canadian television shows, such as Steven and Chris, The Goods and The Marilyn Denis Show.

U.S. based artificial intelligence company OpenAI (creators of the popular chatbot ChatGPT) teased new software on Thursday (Feb. 15) that lets users create realistic videos – simply by typing a descriptive sentence.

The innovative platform, called “Sora,” allows users to type out a scene and, essentially, turn it into a high-definition video clip.

“Sora can generate videos up to a minute long while maintaining visual quality and adherence to the user’s prompt,” OpenAI says in a description on its website. 

The tool is also capable of generating video from still images, extending existing videos and filling in missing frames.

The AI arms race

It’s the latest in how artificial intelligence is challenging the world as we know it, across all sectors of business.

With natural-sounding chatbots already shaking up industries – travel and tourism included – with automated functions that generate detailed answers across domains of knowledge, in a human-like way, the jury is out on what impact Sora will have, but it’s expected to make a splash.

READ MORE: ChatGPT - What it is & why travel advisors should try it out

With Sora, OpenAI will compete with other video-generation tools from companies such as Meta and Google, which unveiled “Lumiere” last month.

“Sora is able to generate complex scenes with multiple characters, specific types of motion, and accurate details of the subject and background,” says OpenAI. “The model understands not only what the user has asked for in the prompt, but also how those things exist in the physical world.”

Of course, the new technology presents all sorts of legal and ethical questions – particularly around the spread of misinformation and abuse of “deepfakes,” which is when AI digitally manipulates, and replaces, a person's likeness convincingly with that of another.

The number of AI-generated deepfakes created has increased 900 per cent year over year, according to Clarity, a machine learning firm.

It's a troubling trend that cannot be ignored. Deepfakes can have malicious intent and can be used to harass people. 

They can cause confusion about important issues, and fuel terrible actions, such as creating revenge porn, where women are disproportionately harmed. Pop singer Taylor Swift is already one high-profile victim

Eye-popping realness

Sora, so far, has only been available to a small group of testers, called “red teamers,” who are trialling the text-to-video platform to ensure it doesn’t release harmful content.  

“We are also granting access to a number of visual artists, designers, and filmmakers to gain feedback on how to advance the model to be most helpful for creative professionals,” OpenAI says.

READ MORE: ChatGPT isn't going to impact travel agents or TAAP, says Expedia

But some sample clips have been posted on the company's website, which you can view here, and the content is eye-popping, to say the least.

One example shows a stylish woman walking down a Tokyo street filled with glowing neon and animated city signage.

Screen shot of Sora's AI-generated Tokyo walk example. (OpenAI)

Another clip shows “historical footage” of California during the gold rush. The clarity and camerawork resembles the quality you’d see in a film from the 1970s or 80s.

Sora is still a work in progress – OpenAI says its current model “has weaknesses.”

“It may struggle with accurately simulating the physics of a complex scene, and may not understand specific instances of cause and effect."

For example: a person might take a bite out of a cookie, but afterward, the cookie may not have a bite mark, the company says.

The model may also confuse spatial details of a prompt. For instance: “Mixing up left and right, and may struggle with precise descriptions of events that take place over time, like following a specific camera trajectory.”

How will it impact travel?

As for how this futuristic text-to-video tool will serve travel advisors and agencies – who are already looking at ways to use ChatGPT as a time-saving tool – the possibilities are endless.

From a content marketing perspective, programs like Sora will undoubtedly expand an agent's digital toolkit, dramatically changing the way video is used to promote a destination, itinerary or service. 

OpenAI’s other examples of Sora-generated videos are travel-related in nature.

Screenshot of a video depicting a white vintage SUV with a black roof rack, speeding up a steep dirt road, generated by Sora. (OpenAI)

One clip shows a camera following behind a white vintage SUV with a black roof rack as it speeds up a steep dirt road, surrounded by pine trees on a steep mountain slope, as dust kicks up from its tires.

A prompt such as this could easily generate a video to promote an adventure-themed trip.  

Another example shows a convincing tour of an art gallery “with many beautiful works of art in different styles.”

Arts and culture tours? Bingo.

OpenAI's CEO Sam Altman has also been sharing videos of prompts requested by online users on the social media platform X.

An AI-generated instructional cooking video for homemade gnocchi hosted by a grandmother social media influencer. (X/@sama)

One clip Altman shared shows an instructional cooking session for homemade gnocchi hosted by a grandmother social media influencer “set in a rustic Tuscan country kitchen with cinematic lighting.”

It’s convincingly real. A little too real.  

Are we heading towards a modern dystopia…or a marketing utopia? 

Maybe a little bit of both? Only time will tell.

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