A number of advances in research in recent years have opened up new possibilities for using AI in creative environments, from making realistic-sounding copies to creating art from scratch. Startup Runway wants to make all of these functions accessible to everyone, regardless of their coding background, in a model similar to Adobe Creative Suite.
This week, the company raised $ 8.5 million in a vote of confidence for this ambitious mission with a new round of funding led by Amplify Partners, with the participation of Lux Capital and Compound Ventures. Runway plans to use the money to help advance the transition from a playground for the casual AI enthusiast to a serious creative tool that is already getting the attention of agencies like R / GA, WPP and VMLY & R, as well as brands like New Balance and Google has pulled.
Rather than building all of the tools on offer, Runway works like an App Store-like hub, hosting dozen of models created by independent developers, and users only pay for the cloud computing time to run them.
The functions available on the platform range from state-of-the-art text and image generators to photo styling and editing functions and video production tools. While many of them are meant to be serious creative tools on a par with professional competitors, others are quirky novelties or early-stage experiments. One module that is offered is, for example, a version of the GPT-2 text generator, which is trained on texts by the K-pop band BTS. Another tries to create an image from a text description – with very mixed results.
Runway founder Cristóbal Valenzuela Barrera said the next step in the company’s evolution is to focus on creating even more accessible interfaces for some of the tools to create a Photoshop-like experience for AI functions, like creating deepfake-like synthetic media or processing natural language.
Barrera said he was inspired by projects from professional clients like New Balance, who used a generative AI model within the platform to experiment with shoe designs, and R / GA, which used the hub to access the GPT-2 copy generator to access the OpenAI research group.
“We initially thought of the platform as a kind of user-friendly and accessible platform for discovering AI models. It produces a lot of models and research that are of great importance to creatives,” said Barrera. “The next step is to leverage this community and build the next generation of creative tools. That basically means using all of these models and all of these algorithms and then building interfaces on systems that allow people to get results from them at the production level. “
Runway is one of the few companies looking to turn recent advances in creative AI into more accessible tools for non-programmers. Another example is Playform AI, which has also attracted interest from major agencies and brands and recently opened an e-commerce shop for professional AI art.