The “Guardians of the Galaxy” films have been smash hits ever since they burst onto the scene with their charismatic casts and groovy retro soundtracks in 2014. Today, the third installment in the series, “Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3” premieres around the world. One thing is clear here at Altair – we’re up to date on our pop culture. At the same time, we’re also up to date on our technology. It’s hard to turn on or read the news without hearing something about ChatGPT, the artificial intelligence (AI) chatbot that’s captured people’s imaginations around the world – for better or worse.
Although “Guardians of the Galaxy” is science fiction, it’s entirely possible that some of the fictional technology we see on the big screen could become a reality someday. Such is the joy of science fiction – though the technology we see throughout the genre may be fictional, it’s usually grounded in some sort of real-world parallel or concept. Thus, in theory, sci-fi technology could one day become a staple of future life.
In this article we explore, with some artistic license, several of Altair’s converging technologies—simulation, AI, and high-performance computing (HPC)—that are behind a few of the gizmos and events we see in “Guardians of the Galaxy.”
Large Language Models Explained
Let’s start by diving further into ChatGPT. More specifically, ChatGPT is powered by large language model (LLM) technology, which also powers Google’s Bard. LLMs generate text based on other text. This is known as “training” a model. We decided to experiment with LLMs. For the training, we created a summary of the first two “Guardians of the Galaxy” movies and defined the output; in other words, we asked ChatGPT to predict the plot of the upcoming movie.
Here's some of the script it generated:
Not bad! We’ll admit that “Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3” probably won’t follow this script – after all, it’s pretty short and very simplistic. Though it may be oversimplifying everything, we do see that ChatGPT faithfully represented the movie's main characters. For example, Groot only says, “I am Groot,” and Rocket, true to his nature, is excited about technology and explosions.
Prediction Beyond Large Language Models
So here, we see one type of prediction using LLMs. For Altair, predicting and optimizing systems is core to the engineering that touches every aspect of our world. Though prediction may sound futuristic, it’s very much crucial in our day-to-day life. Through digital twins, intelligent models, and the convergence of simulation, HPC, and AI, we at Altair implement a combination of reality and simulation to predict a myriad of possible situations for any given system. By creating physics and system models of drones, washing machines, coffee machines, manufacturing plants, banking processes, and countless other systems – and capturing data from those systems while they’re in use – we create synthetic data of desired behavior.
With that synthetic data, we train real-time compliant reduced order models through our Altair® romAI™ technology, which is a critical component of digital twins. We then compare that synthetic data to real-life system performance data. The outcome is quite remarkable. Companies can gain insight about issues their products may encounter before the issues ever happen. In practice, organizations can improve their product designs before finished products reach the public.
In fact, products in use can often self-correct or avoid certain bad outcomes. Think planes, think medical devices. The applications can be life saving. At Altair, we refer to our AI technology as “Frictionless AI.” In short, our tools and technology help anyone understand and utilize their data and AI tools through intuitive interfaces and functions. Gone are the days when AI was only for the field’s top experts – now, it’s a tool for all.
But back to the world of fiction. Our team wanted to more than predict what the series’ third installment would have in store – we also wanted to debunk other aspects of the movies. For example, how was Star-Lord (real name Peter Quill) able to maintain his Sony Walkman for 26 years? We speculate that in deep space, there are an abundance of cosmic rays that could change the Walkman’s components’ material properties and increase their remaining useful life (RUL). And although we can’t quite model cosmic rays on electronic products yet, we do have powerful software, such as Altair® Feko®, with which we can study comprehensive computational electromagnetics.
Computational electromagnetic analysis is widely performed in the telecommunication, automobile, space, and defense industries. With Feko, engineers can easily model electronic devices’ electromagnetic fields. We speculate that one day, when our space technology develops to the point where we can send human crews into deep space, we’ll also use Feko to model cosmic rays and their effect on the performance of devices such as the Sony Walkman (and more contemporary electronics). We also see the future of extending the Altair® Material Data Center™ to include the properties of Earth materials in deep space after being exposed to cosmic rays.
The last question our team wanted to examine was how the Guardians’ spaceship could travel in seconds—with some bumps—between planets in deep space. From the movie, we infer that the spaceship travels close to, or even faster than the speed of light. This assumption violates one of the foundations of the theory of relativity. However, through recent developments in theoretical modeling of quantum entanglement, we can find a way out – albeit with some artistic license! One current theory suggests that entangled particles have a tunnel, possibly running outside the universe, that connects them.
From this, we can assume that Rocket and other spaceship-building engineers within the cinematic universe discovered a way to use quantum tunnels to move between remote points in the universe. The “Guardians of the Galaxy” movies don’t say that explicitly, but maybe in the future leveraging quantum tunnels – and testing them via Altair’s digital twin solutions – will be a common engineering practice. After all, the world’s leading organizations use Altair solutions to design and test the jet-engine technology that propels planes and rockets today.
With the above thoughts on LLM’s, digital twins, material behavior in deep space, and the possibility of traveling almost instantaneously, many of the events within the “Guardians of the Galaxy” movies are currently science fiction. That said, it’s not inconceivable that some of the concepts could one day underpin the scientific understanding of tomorrow. After all, Altair is known for our “Only Forward” motto – who knows? Maybe one day we’ll pass these heroes within a quantum tunnel modeled by a future Altair product!