Gaming’s Impact Toward Data Science and AI Careers

Under the circumstances and the economy of the world we’re working with in 2020, many of our consumer experiences at home are helping uncover new opportunities in work. A most obvious place to start is in exploring what streaming media, social media, and gaming, can mean in other fields of work or in uncovering opportunities for entrepreneurs.

Our friends at GamerJibe (a Collective graduate) and The Level Up Experience have been exploring this for some time; and since hosting one of the first-to-market virtual career fests, it’s been fascinating to watch their work and impact, mature in new ways that keep our economy informed and working.

Gamerjibe, the next-gen events platform, makes it easy to organize 3D browser-based events that appeal to the digital generation, to run networking events, job fairs, esports watch party, or conferences.

Emerging Tech in Cyber Security

One such talk recently hosted Cyber Warrior Network’s Nigel Leblanc, Marine Corp Captain and Mentorch Founder Lavontay Santos, and Patrick Kelley and Jeff Barron of Critical Path Security, with MediaTech VenturesTed Cohen and Gamerjibe’s Michael Lubker.

“The first time I entered the Gamerjibe space and I saw the Marine avatars in Dress Blues, I was like, ‘Yep, it’s on.’ The uniform speaks for itself… this event showed me the tip of the iceberg [for] what is possible when people think outside of the box on how to use technology to connect with other human beings.”

Captain Lavontay Santos; Innovating with Virtual Recruiting with U.S. Marines

The panel, of course, explored cybersecurity and getting into the space, as well as security threats, the significance of the number of intrusions that occur every day, and how the Quarantine has exposed companies; but it was the talk of the discipline and control it takes to work in cybersecurity and the challenges of AI that caught my attention.

Patrick Kelley, “we never really define the intelligence that we’re trying to emulate. Machine Learning is between supervised and unsupervised, depending on the models, so pivoting is a matter of what you’re looking for and doing your best to not include some unintentional bias so that you’re not over-fitting or under-fitting your model.” Given the real cost of capably spinning up AI, such as with IBM Watson, he explores, it’s not an approachable solution for most; the more data and faster you need to move with machine learning, the more difficult it becomes.

“There is this attention to detail and discipline, and control, and the ability to drop in interchangeably with your teammates. There is a readiness that we find with our veterans in the space, that is really hard to match.”

Critical Path Security’s Patrick Kelley

It’s that readiness that struck me given what we do here and how we might better prepare everyone for the future of careers in this science.

Daniel J. Valentino sat down virtually, thanks to these experiences and talks that The Level Up Experience and Gamerjibe are facilitating, and spoke with data scientist and Collective grad, Rob Campanell uncovering how gaming provides a path to these challenges and the high bar of workforce development in machine learning, A.I., and cybersecurity.

Learn Unity ml-agents.  The toolkit focuses on a niche in the machine learning space, called reinforcement learning.  This is how to get started with example environments; the imitation learning environment of ml-agents is going to have an impact on how game testing is done.

“The Unity environment is really good tool for reinforcement learning because it can vividly show you the failures with your assumptions.  I am looking at ml-agents as new tool for optimization problems.  Key advice is to learn it now, because it will creep into many industries, and you will be expert when a lot more opportunities open up.  Another Unity tool to learn is Unity Simulations where beta users have used it highly effectively for game balancing.”

Rob Campanell

What we’re exploring here is the use of simulation environments to provide circumstances in which we can learn and then even test situations in safe environments. Unity is already used for a wide range of simulation tasks and Unity Simulation leverages the cloud to run millions of simulations simultaneously. “By running the LGSVL Simulator on Unity Simulation,” as an example of the credibility and diligence of this approach, shares Seonman Kim, Vice President of Engineering, Advanced Platform Lab at LG Electronics, with Help Net Security, “Autonomous vehicle developers will be able to dramatically accelerate the training of their systems by running multiple scenarios in parallel.”

Generally, Campanell adds, those getting started might use Kaggle to build their data science portfolio. The opportunity to showcase your work as you learn is found in more than competitions now. “Highlight your data sets you’ve created, analysis with notebooks, and Q&A to the Kaggle community.”

Influencers Get Virtual

Virtual influencers started to get noticed on the North American viral marketing buzz scene in 2017 with the large Instagram following of Lil Miquela from the creative studio, Brud.

These virtual characters have their roots in Asia, which go back to the 2000’s. Virtual idols are computer animated celebrity singers.

The world’s most popular virtual idol is Hatsuni Miku from Japan. She was created in 2007 by the Hokkaido-based software company, Crypton Future Media, to sell their music software. She has gone on to be a brand ambassador for companies such as Toyota and Google and has performed in live venues around the world. She is booked to perform at the Coachella Music Festival in 2020.

The success of Hatsuni Miku did not go unnoticed in China. Shanghai HENIAN Technology created a similar virtual idol in 2012, Lou Tianyi, who became the top Mandarin music virtual idol. She was recently a brand ambassador for Procter & Gamble. She appeared in an AR performance to promote its feminie hygiene brand, Whisper, for the world’s biggest shopping holiday, Alibaba’s Double 11 day.

Fast forward to 2018 where the LA-based Riot Games, debut their virtual idol act, K/DA , at their Worlds event. The global audience of nearly 100 million viewers was larger than the Super Bowl. The K/DA “Pop Stars” music video has over 300 million views on YouTube as of this writing. “Pop Stars” single rose to #1 on Billboard’s World Digital Sales chart.

Another gaming studio, Epic Games, jumped on this trend in 2019 with a live in-game concert using the virtual likeness of EDM artist, Marshmello. He performed a virtual concert in its franchise game, Fortnite, to an audience of 10 million. This groundbreaking event demonstrated the potential of massively online virtual concerts and its associated merchandise.

In an article published by RADII, Raymond Zhang, Strategy SVP at Mogu, a Hangzhou-based fashion ecommerce platform explains why he likes virtual influencers, “The rewards are obvious. Virtual [influencers] can work nonstop, They don’t have any real ‘people’ problems, they can just be selling products and working 24/7”. It can be elaborated even further why virtual idols appeal to companies and governments as influencers is because they don’t carry the risks of drug and alcohol dependencies, public misbehavior, egos, or irrational desires to be loved by everyone.

Large companies have started paying attention to this trend and are getting onboard. iQIYI (market cap, $12.5B NASDAQ), the Netflix-style video platform spun out from the search giant Baidu, created their own virtual idol group, RiCH BOOM. They even went as far to discuss RiCH BOOM in their 2019 Q2 Earnings Call. For iQIYI, virtual idols represent a two-fold opportunity. The first is self-produced programming which has higher brand ad revenues than conventional licensed programming. The second is co-branding opportunities which iQIYI did with Tsingtao Brewery and RiCH BOOM.

Mediatech Ventures’ Collective incubator first cohort class featured a startup working in the virtual idol space. The startup is founded by a pair of veteran music industry entrepreneurs, Rob Campanell (Austin) and Ed Yen (Taipei). It intersects virtual fashion with virtual idols and social gaming.

Virtual influencers have been rising globally for over a decade. Audiences are spending money to see them “in-person.” Brands are signing them to endorsement deals. We can expect to see more virtual influencers start to take center stage and make their mark in the near future.