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Avatars have been around for much of video game history, but for most of that history, players would never mistake those characters for the humans they imitate. Inner World AI wants to change that by infusing AI into virtual characters to make them smarter than ever.
Y Inner World AI has demonstrated its technology in a artificially intelligent Santa Claus to show what you can do. This holiday season, kids around the world can have conversations with virtual Santa as part of the recently launched Inworld Character Arcade, which also features Elon Musk and Sigmund Freud.
Inworld uses advanced AI to create generative characters whose personalities, thoughts, memories, and behaviors are designed to mimic the deeply social nature of human interaction. This area of the tech industry has exploded this year with AI generative art projects that can produce painted portraits of people or chat programs like ChatGPT.
“I am absolutely focused on how we build this into a new form of expression, a new form of creation, with these characters,” said Kylan Gibbs, director of product and co-founder of Inworld AI, in an interview with GamesBeat. Do we create a whole new medium for interaction? That’s what excites me.”
Gibbs began working on machine learning while at Bain & Co. He worked at DeepMind, which worked on conversational AI using generative models and natural language processing. he started doing machine learning while working at Bain & Co.
“Overall, I’m passionate about how this new technology can power creative use cases,” Gibbs said in an interview with GamesBeat. “We create products that not only amplify people’s creativity in terms of new inspiration and fuel it, but also address how we reduce the latency between imagination and reality.”
San Francisco-based Inworld AI came out of hiding in August after raising $50 million in funding from a group of investors including Intel Capital and Bikraft Ventures. Since then, the company has started releasing AI characters like Santa. Inworld AI went through an acceleration program with Disney and began offering grants to game developers who use AI to create game characters.
virtual santa claus
Santa can be fed to learn about the Christmas likes, dislikes, habits and wishes of anyone using it, making it ideal for parents to share with children. Inworld’s Santa can be easily customized to learn about your children’s favorite books, movies and games, to ensure they get a fully personalized experience. Kids can talk to St. Nick from the comfort and safety of their homes and ask a host of questions in real time, at no cost and with no time limit.
This virtual Santa is one of many that Inworld AI is creating to populate the metaverse of the future. Avatars can be the world’s number one expert on a sports team or know all of their world’s history or lore by heart. They can be funny, endearing, brilliant, kind, evil, or downright ridiculous. With Inworld, developers from the metaverse can create and add villains, heroes, historical figures, or just ordinary people to their worlds.
Chatting with an AI character who will listen to your problems, laugh at your jokes or answer your pressing questions replicates the social nature that many gamers find attractive in successful metaverse platforms, Gibbs said.
Gibbs believes that intelligent AI characters can be even more entertaining. Adding them to your metaverse platform throws your users into the middle of an interactive digital world with any character you can imagine. Or whatever you can imagine: it’s easy to give game users the ability to create or customize their own AI characters to be their companions, best friends, nemesis, or just playmates.
Inworld characters can also be easily integrated into any metaverse technology and power up any avatar you wish to create for them. They are avatar agnostic and have integration with Unity and Unreal Engine, as well as a Node.js SDK.
In the grant program, Inworld AI will award up to $1 million in grants to innovators who experiment with new technology and create new experiences with AI characters. Judges include Snow Crash author Neal Stephenson, Oculus co-founder Nate Mitchell, former Lucasfilm film producer Kiri Hart, and Inworld AI creative director John Gaeta to judge the applications.
The new program will award grants to innovators who want to broaden their creative palette with AI, be at the forefront of immersive entertainment, and bring new stores, characters, and experiences to
Inworld AI wants more advanced characters to be able to have open, unscripted conversations. And you want those characters to experience emotions, respond to triggers, remember shared lore or brand awareness, and pursue their own goals. Some of this sounds like it’s more in the future than it is today, but generative AI technologies have become very strong this year.
“With these characters, you’re now changing the way games and experiences work, where you’re actually inserting something that allows you to adapt to the player or the world,” Gibbs said.
The company envisions open worlds populated by generative NPCs, role-playing simulations, or experiences that drive emergent gameplay; characters from movies, books, music or television, translated into interactive entertainment experiences, trailers or promotions; brand activations or e-commerce experiences with digital ambassadors and sales agents; and educational and corporate training and simulations led by digital facilitators and tutors.
“We are excited to see Inworld characters unlock new experiences in gaming, entertainment, and
the company,” Gibbs said. “The creative possibilities of generative AI are endless, so we welcome applications that push the boundaries of storytelling and interactive entertainment. For us, the more innovative and experimental, the better.”
Accelerating the Inworld AI
At Disney, the company stepped on the accelerator and created a project called Star Wars Droid Creator in association with ILMxLab, part of the Lucasfilm family.
“One of the biggest things we took away was that people are very focused on creating these hyper-intelligent AIs,” Gibbs said. “But ultimately what people want are these super engaging and entertaining characters. If you watch a great Pixar movie, it’s all about how they tell a story. That has been very useful for us.”
Now the company wants to seed its learnings with those who apply for grants.
The grants are intended to boost the ecosystem for creators to use more AI characters with real ability to adapt to a situation to make things more interesting for players. Developers can use these AI characters instead of goofy non-player characters (NPCs) to make them more engaging. You can populate entire worlds with these characters.
“That’s where we see some people using it and looking at how to populate these virtual worlds,” Gibbs said.
On the other hand, some users want to work with the AI and write a prequel to a book and tell the whole story through character interaction. And in games, Gibbs hopes that AI can deliver emergent results, where unscripted conversations can lead to very different gameplay than expected.
“Characters can also help provide a backstory. So you could stop and talk to a character in the Lord of the Rings or Game of Thrones or Elden Ring style game where you’re actually researching with that character in world lore. And that helps you develop a relationship with the character, but it also deepens your relationship with the world,” Gibbs said. “It can push people along in the narrative.”
The time of AI
As for the popularity of generative AI in 2022, Gibb said it reminded him of data science when he first moved into that part of computing around 2014. Data science was the bigger term.
“I remember finding myself in this race and I was definitely exploding,” he said. “All this generative dominance of AI is about to change the way things work.”
He added: “Previously, machine learning was something unsupervised where you gave it examples and it learned those patterns. But now the models are really internalizing these patterns. So as a person you just need to give him less and less information to get what you want from him. And the magic of that is opening it up so that you no longer need to be a machine learning practitioner to make use of AI.”
As for whether AI can kill some creative jobs, Gibbs thinks it will improve the jobs of creators. He looks at ophthalmologists, who use artificial intelligence machines to write prescriptions for patients. Those doctors are now more productive and can offer wisdom and services on top of those automated prescriptions.
“Generative AI is at a very interesting early stage where people are figuring out what it’s useful for,” he said. “I think that in the next few years, just the ability to create content, both the visual parts and the interactive parts, will change rapidly. We are now looking at an awkward phase.”
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