OpenAI Just Bought a Game Studio—But Why?

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ChatGPT developer OpenAI announced on Wednesday the acquisition of Global Illumination, saying the entire team has joined OpenAI and will work on various projects, including ChatGPT.

“We’re very excited for the impact they’ll have here at OpenAI,” OpenAI said in a brief statement.

Co-founded by engineers Thomas Dimson, Taylor Gordon, and designer Joey Flynn in 2021, New York-based Global Illumination is the company behind the MMORPG Minecraft-clone Biomes. The young firm comes with an impressive pedigree, with team members having cut their teeth on projects for Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, Google, and Riot Games.

The move, and scant details, have prompted speculation on whether OpenAI might get into developing customized environments, or get more broadly into gaming—perhaps adding a touch of AIs to NPCs.

Although not a gaming company, OpenAI’s acquisition of Global Illumination certainly sees value to the team, if not its metaverse tech.

Global Illumination CEO Thomas Dimson is the original author of Instagram’s content ranking algorithms and served as Director of Engineering at Instagram; CPO Joey Flynn worked as a designer at Meta’s Facebook and Instagram; and CTO Taylor Gordon worked as an engineer at Facebook AI, Instagram, and YouTube.

In 2015, Fast Company named Dimson one of the most creative people when Dimson, Alex Karpenko, and Chris Connolly launched Hyperlapse for Instagram, letting smartphone users create time-lapse videos.

An advocate of open-source technology, Dimson has both supported and criticized calls to open-source algorithms. Last year, Dimson called OpenAI co-founder Elon Musk’s call to open-source the Twitter algorithm valid but overly simplistic.

“The call for transparency is valid, and it can begin with disclosure into experiments similar to the one I led at Instagram,” Dimson said. “Useful transparency, I’d argue, lies in open-source experimentation rather than algorithms.”

Helping OpenAI make acquisitions like Global Illumination is a treasury of over $13 billion, amassed partly due to Microsoft’s investments, which integrated ChatGPT into its Bing browser in February.

Last month, OpenAI removed access to the “Browse with Bing” feature in the subscription-based GPT-4 after abuse by users.

“We have learned that the ChatGPT Browse beta can occasionally display content in ways we don’t want,” OpenAI wrote in a post.

OpenAI has not yet responded to Decrypt’s request for comment.

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