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Realistic 'GTA 5' Achieved Through Machine Learning Is Actually Quite Unsettling

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Realistic 'GTA 5' Achieved Through Machine Learning Is Actually Quite Unsettling

As graphics get more and more advanced, we're coming ever closer to realising proper photorealistic games. We've seen titles like Death Stranding and Red Dead Redemption 2 do a fantastic job at making a world look almost real, but we're yet to witness a gaming world achieve true life-like fidelity. However, researchers at Intel Labs have found a way to bring us another step closer to genuinely photo-real gaming with a striking modification to Grand Theft AutoV's visuals.

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Spotted by Gizmodo, this Intel Labs project uses machine learning techniques to apply real textures to Rockstar's GTA V, with impressive results. The YouTube video showing the difference between Los Santos before and after the effect is enabled is almost scary. At a glance, you'd think the game screenshot was perhaps a still image taken from a dashcam - Intel Labs has undoubtedly made something very impressive.

Okay yes, Intel Labs have created an impressive graphical overhaul of Grand Theft Auto V - but players can make mods of their own. For example, look at this incredible reimagining of Vice City...

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So, how have they done it? By using image data from Cityscapes Dataset (which mostly consists of pictures of German cities and urban landscapes), machine learning can apply the textures, lighting, and visuals to the world of Grand Theft Auto. It's far from perfect in getting a true photorealistic image, but it gets closer than many have got when trying to render graphics made from scratch in a studio. A full, far more technical explanation of the process can be found here on the Intel Labs website.


Though very impressive, the question is: do you want these photorealistic graphics in games? There is an argument to be made that, yes, games are often a form of escapism and if they can get closer to perfectly replicating the world around us, then this escapism can be elevated. However, looking through the images present in the research from Intel Labs, many would think that GTA V in its native graphics looks better. Perhaps not realistic, but more fun, with clearer lines, cleaner colours, and a palette that reflects the way the game is supposed to feel. It's artistic and succeeds in being beautiful and impressive without getting to the point that it looks real. And so, depending on a player's priorities, photorealism may not be a feature they desire.

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It'll certainly be an interesting journey to see how hyperrealism integrates into games in the future. Not all games will be better looking by looking 'better', but it will open another artistic avenue for developers to explore. Just don't let Capcom get hold of it, okay? I couldn't bear to experience something like the horrors of Resident Evil Village's House Beneviento in realistic graphics.

Featured Image Credit: Rockstar Games / Intel Labs

Topics: News, Rockstar, GTA 5

Imogen Mellor
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