Flax: House of AI.
The Flax is a former flax factory on the VIVES university of applied sciences campus in Kortrijk. After we left the building, The Flax was also the name of a slightly sardonic AI—the main character in a visual, gamified experience that shows students just what you can do with AI. After playing their way through 3D games and being shown a flick on the future, we wanted them feeling electrified.
Explain AI and its potential to students, on campus. Use gamification and storytelling. That’s the telegram-style version of the briefing. There was the flax factory, and there was an idea of building the whole story around four characters. We came in to spark some life into all of that. Build storylines, create content, mocap the actors, and get crackin' on all the video and digital content we’d need to give students a real feel of where AI is at today. Not unimportantly: while the purpose was an instructive one, we added a good dose of fun to the whole—pardon the buzzword—experience.
But look at that team!
We like the kind of collaboration that’s just that: a collaboration. A team effort, you know? And it was. While we mulled over the complex storyline and tried to fit in all the content, we got just the kind of freedom we like to come up with, not good, but great stuff. And we got (almost) everything done in-house: storytelling, video production, 3D’ing, development… Our whole team was on board. We even tried our hand at a new AI application to help out with the mocapping. On the content-side, we set up a collab with AI AI experts from VIVES, Kulak, Health House and Mieke de Ketelaere, who blew our mind with loads and loads of info on where AI is taking us. Enter cheesy quote about teamwork and making the dream work.
– Griet Verbeke, Coördinator House of AI – Flax
Room after room of 3D visuals and games
If anything, this is a you-have-to-see-it-to-really-understand-it kind of project. But we’re happy to walk you through our hybrid world and set the scene. Entering The Flax, students are welcomed by a visualization of a quantum computer asking seemingly random questions—coffee or tea? Based on your answers, they’re assigned a team, and an avatar. A short introductory video later, they’re playing a set of four games against an AI that’s gone kind of bonkers and speaks of talking over the world. The games are all built to show what AI can do today. Where does it do better than humans? Where does it still flunk the test?
To play is to find out. It doesn’t end once the AI is beaten, by the way. Afterwards, players are immersed in a 360° video projection that showcases possible futures involving AI. And because it’s always more fun to try things than just hear them explained, the last room offers a bit of playtime with AI tools we’ve adapted so they’re super user-friendly. Go ahead, upload your pic and see what life would be like as a Disney character, say.
On to the next round
This project has put VIVES on the map as the forward-thinging instution they are. And it shows: while students keep pouring in, the school board has already received questions from several companies wanting to visit the Flax building. The project made some newspaper headlines, too. So, yes, we’re already making plans for the future. Times they are AI-changing, meaning we’ll be updating all the visual content we’ve produced to stay ahead of the curb.