Kids at Toys ‘R’ Us meet AI in a video using OpenAI’s Sora

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Toys “R” Us released a video created with a new artificial intelligence tool at the Cannes Film Festival on Monday, but not everyone wants to be the Toys “R” Us-AI kid. The toy retailer said in a statement that it was the first brand video created using Sora, a text-to-video tool from ChatGPT creator OpenAI. Sora is not yet publicly available, but the company was given exclusive early access.

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The 1-minute AI-generated video shows a young boy representing the late Toys “R” Us founder Charles Lazarus. He falls asleep and wakes up in a dream world filled with all sorts of toys, including an animated version of store mascot Geoffrey the Giraffe. A sad version of the store’s I Wanna Be a Toys ‘R’ Us Kid jingle plays, and a photo of the real Lazarus is shown alongside a costumed version of Geoffrey.

A teaser was released on YouTube, but to see the full video you’ll have to head over to Toys “R” Us Studios’ site.

Toys “R” Us closed its last U.S. stores in 2021, but later opened toy departments inside Macy’s department stores, keeping the old name alive.

But some of the now-grown Toys “R” Us kids weren’t comfortable with their childhood icon venturing into the world of artificial intelligence.

More than 9,500 people liked the tweet on X, from writer and comedian Mike Drucker, who wrote, “I loved this ad, ‘Toys R Us started with the dream of a little boy who wanted to share his imagination with the world.’ And to show how, we fired up our artists and used a server farm to dry out Lake Superior so it looked like Stephen King’s worst nightmare.”

Videos, music and dialogue using AI in the entertainment world continue to stir controversy, ranging from fears of AI replacing human workers to concerns about how easy it is to pass off AI images or sounds as real. Sometimes the response to AI is positive, as in 2023, when former Beatle Paul McCartney said an AI program had extracted the late John Lennon’s voice from an old tape, which has been called the last Beatles song.

But last month, Sony Music Group and its partners spoke out against using their artists’ music to train AI systems. A song that used AI to imitate singers like Drake and The Weeknd was submitted for two Grammy Awards in 2023, prompting the music academy to hastily draw up rules about AI and its awards. And singer Taylor Swift and President Joe Biden are among the people whose voices people are trying to imitate to dupe others. It seems every new venture into the world of AI brings new questions, and with a well-known brand name like Toys “R” Us, the response seemed inevitable.

‘We weren’t going to hire a giraffe’

When asked by NBC News about criticisms about AI’s potential to replace human workers, Toys “R” Us studio president Kim Miller Olko said there is “a lot of fear” about AI. Miller Olko said about a dozen humans worked on the video for three months, which is comparable to the number of people working on a non-AI job.

“Geoffrey is an animation. He’s a cartoon,” Miller Olko told NBC. “We weren’t going to hire a giraffe, you know what I mean? It was an animation.”

Representatives for Toys “R” Us and OpenAI did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

What is Sora?

“Sora” means sky in Japanese, and as CNET’s Connie Guglielmo wrote in February, this AI tool has gained attention for creating photorealistic videos.

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

Open AI also says on its site that the company is building tools to help detect deceptive content, such as a detection classifier that can tell when a video was produced by Sora, and plans to include C2PA metadata to indicate that Sora was used in an OpenAI product.

For more news, tips and reviews on artificial intelligence, check out CNET’s AI Atlas hub.

Editors’ note: CNET used an AI engine to help create several dozen stories, which are labeled accordingly. The notes you’re reading link to articles that are related to the topic of AI but were created entirely by our expert editors and writers. For more information, see our AI policy.

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