“Westworld is built in a physical world. I think in this age and time, that’s not what we want to get into,” Xinjie Ma, who heads up marketing for rct, told TechCrunch. The eight-people team is led by Cheng Lyu, the 29-year-old entrepreneur who goes by Jesse and helped Baidu build up its smart speaker unit from scratch after the Chinese search giant acquired his voice startup Raven in 2017. Along with several of Raven’s core members, Lyu left Baidu in 2018 to start rct. “It’s sort of like how the film Ready Player One built its own gadgets for the virtual world. Or Apple, which designs its own devices to carry out superior software experience,” explained Ma. On the creative front, rct believes Morpheus could be a productivity tool for filmmakers as it can take a story arc and dissect it into a decision-making tree within seconds. No one on the team had experience in filmmaking, so it’s on the lookout for a creative head who appreciates AI’s application in films. “Not all filmmakers we approach like what we do, which is understandable because it’s a very mature industry, while others get excited about tech’s possibility,” said Ma. The startup’s entry into the fictional world was less about a passion for films than an imperative to shake up a traditional space with AI. Smart speakers were its first foray, but making changes to tangible objects that people are already accustomed to proved challenging. “A confident company doesn’t really draw parallels with others, but we do share similarities to Pixar, which also started as a tech company, publishes its own films, and has built its own engine,” said Ma. “A lot of studios are asking how much we price our engine at, but we are targeting the consumer market. Making our own films carry so many more possibilities than simply selling a piece of software.”

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