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Bootstrapped startup Midjourney offers a popular text-to-image AI generator from its own foundation model. Since its beta launch in the summer of 2022, it has built a thriving community of users on its official server within the separate messaging app Discord — exceeding 16 million at the time of this article’s publication, including VentureBeat (we use it and other AI art generators to illustrate articles).
To this day, more than a year later, Discord remains the primary means by which users can interact with Midjourney — they simply type in a text prompts to the Midjourney Bot in Discord, which in turn, produces quartets of generated images for the user to choose from, download, remix, edit sections of, pan over, or otherwise iterate on.
However, as of this week, Midjourney is now available in its own mobile app…sort of. According to founder David Holz, a former co-founder of Leap Motion and NASA researcher, who spoke at Midjourney’s regular weekly “Office Hours” audio conference held within Discord, Midjourney partnered with engineers from Japanese game company Sizigi Studios to launch Niji Journey, an Android and iOS app.
Holz said Niji Journey was built for the Japanese market in particular and was focused on providing images using Midjourney’s anime art style setting, also known as “Niji.”
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The journey to Niji Journey
The Niji Journey app is available for download now on both the Google Play and Apple App Stores for free with in-app purchases. It still requires a paid subscription through Midjourney to use (the cheapest tier is $8 a month paid as a lump sum annual payment of $96, or $10 a month paid monthly). Existing Midjourney subscribers can log into it using their Discord credentials without paying more.
Holz told the attendees of the Midjourney Office Hours call today that the Midjourney team — which consists of only a few dozen employees — had decided to partner with Sigizi Studios (known variously as Spellbrush and Waifu Labs, makers of the AI anime game Arrowmancer), because Japanese users were more accustomed to interacting with mobile apps than desktop for software, and had found Midjourney’s Discord Bot to be not as user friendly as they would like.
Holz noted that the Niji Journey app was able to produce non-Niji images in Midjourney, allowing users to access the entire range of art styles available through the AI generator, simply by selecting “v5” in the Niji Journey app’s settings — something observed by users on X (formerly Twitter).
Holz said that Niji Journey was intentionally more information-dense and “busy” in its user interfaces than the Midjourney Discord implementation or other “Western” app design conventions, because the Japanese market prioritized granular controls over simplicity or minimalism.
A full-fledged Midjourney app is coming…someday
Holz invited existing Midjourney users to try out Niji Journey and provide feedback. Yet, he was clear in saying that Midjourney planned to ultimately release its own stand-alone app one day, but did not provide a timeline as to when it could be expected.
He mentioned that that mobile app economics at present did not typically support services as expensive as Midjourney, and said he and his team were thinking about how best to create an onboarding experience for new users should they release a stand-alone mobile app.
During his talk, Holz mentioned that Midjourney planned to release two major new features this week — a native upscaler for increasing the resolution to 4000 by 4000 pixels, as well as a personalized style setting so that users could make their own style to apply to all image generations going forward, similar in a way to the custom instructions available in OpenAI’s ChatGPT. He cautioned that both features were still experimental and had not performed up to the team’s high standards, but were still good enough to be released soon and would hopefully be enjoyable and useful to Midjourney’s subscribers.
Holz further stated that Midjourney would be pushing out an upgrade to its website soon as well, providing more features for viewing generated images and sharing them on social. He said this update would occur in two phases.
Midjourney has gained a big following despite the technical hoops that users must go through to get started, in part because the imagery it generates is so high quality and interesting.
But with the rise of high-quality image generating AI alternatives including OpenAI’s DALL-E 3 baked into ChatGPT Plus, and Adobe’s recent release of Firefly Image 2, not to mention competitors such as Ideogram that can produce typography far more reliably and accurately than Midjourney, the launch of the Niji Journey mobile app could not come sooner. And it remains to be seen if Midjourney’s general stagger-step, iterative, endearingly scrappy approach toward releasing new user-facing products and services will allow it to maintain the impressive userbase it has built so far, especially with the pressure of more well-funded and easier-to-use competition.
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