Who makes the servers hum in SoftLayer data centers around the world?
The SLayers are the brains and muscle beneath the SoftLayer cloud—and you had a chance to meet some of us in last year’s Under the Infrastructure series. But each firewall has two sides! And those servers would not be humming if not for our brilliant customers.
Today we’re launching a new series that will celebrate individuals and teams building on the SoftLayer cloud: the builders and founders, the creators and the disruptors, the developers and the architects, the dreamers and the visionaries, the inventors and the reformers. The Cloudocracy.
We’re starting with Neal O’Gorman, co-founder and CTO of Artomatix. O’Gorman calls Artomatix the “artist’s personal slave robot.” The software uses machine learning-based artificial imagination to empower game dev studios that address mundane and dreary art creation tasks. Creating a beach full of pebbles or an army of zombies—with all the elements being unique—now takes minutes, not weeks, which can generate a tenfold increase in productivity. (For more details, read the complete case study here.)
At the GDC Game Developer Conference in San Francisco this spring, Artomatix will launch its inventive approach to generating video game art. We spoke to O’Gorman to find out more.
SOFTLAYER: Thank you for joining us today. Why don’t you start by telling us what Artomatix does?
O’GORMAN: Eric Risser, our co-founder, CTO, and the inventor of our incredible technology, built a game when he was a teenager and he was the artist on the team. He made a house and was delighted with it. Then he realized he had a whole village to create. From then on, he has been looking to solve that problem. Artomatix uses machine learning to quickly make high-quality variants of art assets.
SL: That sounds cool. We hear a lot about machine learning nowadays, but rarely about its use for creative applications. What do you do for Artomatix?
O’GORMAN: Unfortunately, what takes up too much time is funding. You close one funding round and go directly into the next. We’re in the process of closing our seed round. We received EU funding from the Creatify program, which helped us hire SoftLayer. We’ve also received funding from early stage investor NDRC, EU grants, and NVIDIA. We need to get to a point where revenues are coming in, which is the challenge for every startup. In the first year, we worked with companies who sent us art, we generated results, and sent it back. We validated that we were delivering the quality they needed. Then we had to build a product fast enough for them. With SoftLayer, being able to select bare metal servers and identify high-end GPUs gives us the speed we need.
SL: If you were stranded on a desert island, but you could take a few music albums and games with you, what would you bring?
O’GORMAN: Music hasn’t been a huge part of my life, but whatever you listen to in your teenage years ends up sticking. I’d definitely take the greatest Irish band that never made it out of Ireland, The Stunning.
SL: Were you in the band?
O’GORMAN: No! If you haven’t heard of them, and I suspect most people haven’t. Check them out.
For my game, the first one is definitely Quake. I got addicted in college and had to stop playing games because I was playing it too much.
For my next game, I’d say Texas Ask’Em Poker. I didn’t play for The Stunning, but I did create Texas Ask’Em Poker. When I lived in Germany, I was a quizmaster in the local Irish pub. I came across a poker company looking for new games and I had a eureka moment with the idea to put a quiz element into poker.
My final game would be Turrican on the Commodore 64 in the late 1980s. You run around, fly around, and just use your flamethrower. A classic!
SL: Pretty much everything on the Commodore is a classic, although some of the artificial intelligence was more artificial than intelligent in those days. I’ve seen a lot of talk recently about computers taking over creative jobs. Should video game artists feel threatened by your technology?
O’GORMAN: If there are Chinese whispers [the game more commonly known as “telephone”], artists might get concerned. But the reality is that we’re here to help artists spend more time being creative. We’re not replacing their creativity. We’re replacing their tedious, mundane tasks. With hybridization, we can take a few different concepts, iterate, and provide different ideas for the artist to choose from. Artomatix is always based on an example, and that needs an artist.
SL: Game developers can sleep easy! What kind of games will we be playing in 10 years, and how will we be playing them?
O’GORMAN: We’ll see a big push on virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR). AR is much more intriguing because with VR you're closed off to the rest of world—you’re not living in the real world. For AR, one of the keys for success is that new art needs to be created on the fly, and it needs to be in sync with the environment the person is in. Picture you and your family sitting at breakfast. On the screen, there’s an extra chair at the table. It’s not an exact copy of another chair, but it fits in perfectly. Sitting in it is someone who looks like a family member, but not any particular one. And they’re a zombie.
SL: Scary stuff! Good luck with your launch!
O’GORMAN: Thank you!