June 18, 2024
OpenAI acquires startup founded by ex-Instagram talent for undisclosed sum


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OpenAI is making more moves. The company behind ChatGPT and Dall-E 2 just announced it has acquired Global Illumination, Inc., a New York City-based startup founded in 2021 by a trio of former Facebook and Instagram workers — Thomas Dimson, Taylor Gordon and Joey Flynn, who worked on engineering and product design at the Meta companies, respectively.

“Global Illumination is a company that has been leveraging AI to build creative tools, infrastructure, and digital experiences,” writes OpenAI in the blog post announcing the acquisition, adding that the Global Illumination, Inc. team “have also made significant contributions at YouTube, Google, Pixar, Riot Games and other notable companies.”

Some web users celebrated the move as an excellent “acqui-hire” for OpenAI — that is, acquiring new talent via buying up an entire team or firm.

OpenAI says that the talent from Global Illumination will “work on our core products including ChatGPT.”

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Yet Global Illumination’s name and previous work appear to be focused on visual-facing products and services, indicating that OpenAI may be pursuing more multimedia features for ChatGPT, or building out its Dall-E 2 image generation service, or perhaps launching a video-generation product to rival fellow New York City startup Runway with its Gen-2 text-to-video generator.

Global Illumination recently developed a web-based massive multiplayer online roleplaying game (MMORPG) called Biomes.

Furthermore, the term “global illumination” has been used in computer graphics for many years to describe the algorithms that create realistic lighting effects on 3D objects. One of the initial algorithms for global illumination came about from California Institute of Technology (Caltech) researcher James “Jim” Kajiya in 1986.

Dimson, who is Global Illumination’s CEO, penned an article for the a16z publication Future, disclosing he led the team that developed Instagram’s personalized content ranking/recommendation engine that replaced its default reverse chronological feed.

Terms of the deal were not publicly disclosed by either company. VentureBeat has reached out to OpenAI and Global Illumination for further details and will continue to update this report.

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