Wednesday, February 18, 2009

An AI that can express emotions

I've been trying to get my plan together for our lecture at GDC: Here

There's plenty of academic stuff I can go over, particularly models of personality, mood and emotion that you see in a lot of affective computing literature. That of course is pretty useful information in and of itself (great to get going if you're interested in learning more for yourself).

But I really wanted to get something so compelling and convincing for people to see that they simply couldnt ignore the subject. Right now there are plenty of people who really can't see the benefit of having thier agents express emotion. I can understand where they're coming from, given that its additional production effort that is taking you into unproven territory.

I'm just not entirely convinced that I can produce this artefact that is so utterly compelling that it changes how many in an industry views thier own efforts. Sure, there are people like Wil Wright saying that we need to explore this kind of game-space more and he's a pretty smart cookie after all. But you know how hard it is to convince someone that games dont simply have to be about killing?

Given that the Wii has expanded the market into new areas, you would think more experimentation in what is arguably the most profitable game segment ever (the simulation) you would expect more. But visit any game trailer site and look at the number of simulation games that aren't based on war and you'll see where I'm coming from.

Imagine trying to pitch a game involving the creation of the AI equivalent of a romantic comedy in the vien of "four weddings and a funeral" and you'll maybe see my problem. I think games have the potential for social and emotional simulation that may well be a huge underinvestigated role for games as a medium, yet I'm just not entirely sure I can create something convincing enough that people will see what that might look like.

Right now my demo looks awful, has models for basically what they had in sims 1 in terms of AI and has no compelling behavior that people can draw a line and say "yeah, I can see that would be fun to play". Without that obvious fun factor, I just don't see the thing being truly convincing to the game development community.

I'm going to try and consolidate my thoughts on the link between emotion and obvious game-related behavior over the next few days. So I can think of specific use cases and the passage of code that elicits the correct behavior selection and action from the AI that will demonstrate the potential of modelling emotion to extend the depth of reactions at least. There are so many fundamental philosophical questions that this whole thing brings up though. I mean if you'd have asked my wether I would have been reading Descartes this time last year, I'd have said definitely not. Now I'm reading about neuroscience, philosophy, acting, emotion research, psychology and iconography in order to get a handle on the real "meat" of this problem.

I think I need a lie down :)



  1. Sounds cool :) even if tough, and even though conviction is an art, I'd be interesting on hearing the theory on having more Four Weddings and a Funeral type emotions, which itself had such a mix of cringing, comedy, farce, love, romance, anger, disgust, embarrsement and so forth, it was pretty cool.

    Then again, I think that specific example is best kept to a film with Hugh Grant in ;) A player couldn't really emulate his situation exactly to the point of some of the more silly scenes :)

    Anywho, modelling emotions, cool stuff, we need more of it to engage that kind of game playing.

  2. I think you're working on something achievable, commendable and absolutely necessary to take games to the next level. As a fan of psychological AI research and application I cannot wait to see what you can add to the game.