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High-Tech Movie Has Five Different Endings, Depending on Who Is Watching It

The Angry River is a short interactive film that uses eye-tracking technology and artificial intelligence to gauge who the viewer looks at and where their eyes linger most on screen. The film then edits itself into one of five possible storylines, to suit the viewer’s interest.

The Angry River is basically a film with the interactivity of a multiple-ending video game, only instead of using a controller or a keyboard to make choices that impact the storyline, you do it with your eyes instead. Armen Perian, the filmmaker behind this groundbreaking project says that he was inspired by something one of the members of his editing team said three years ago. It sounded crazy at the time, but a seed was planted in Perian’s head, and with the advancement in artificial intelligence, that crazy idea became reality.

Photo: Pomegranate Films, LLC

“We were sitting in a very long, very difficult edit and someone said, ‘Man, I wish we could just edit this thing with our minds.’ It was totally off-the-cuff but the idea stuck with me,” Armen Perian recalled about how he came up with the idea for The Angry River.

To make this interactive film possible, the filmmaker teamed up with Crossbeat New York, a tech company that developed the eye-tracking technology and the machine learning that controls the storyline. The movie itself was shot in Oregon and then edited into five distinct narrative perspectives, which can be assembled into a custom viewing experience that plays like a regular movie, but is actually tailored to suit the viewer’s interest.

Photo: Pomegranate Films, LLC

The Angry River plays like a normal movie, but in the background, eye-tracking technology collects data on what the viewer is most interested in and feeds it to an algorithm which then decides how the movie changes based on what is being viewed. So instead of directors and editors deciding the outcome of the story, viewers get to do it themselves.

“I loved the idea of bringing game theory to film, but I wanted to preserve a cinematic experience, even though you’re watching it on your computer,” Perian said. “You watch it like any other film. But watching something is still making decisions, and what the viewer decides to pay attention to ultimately drives the action. It changes the movie they see.”

 

The Angry River follows a family of human traffickers in Portland, Oregon, and will premiere online on May 18. The ingenious technology that powers it has already piqued the interest of both major film studios and tech companies, so we are likely to see interactive motion pictures in the near future.

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