Games are about to become a lot more intelligent and a lot more immersive as artificial intelligence and virtual reality start to live up to the hype.
The rapid advancements being made in the fields of artificial intelligence, virtual reality and augmented reality have made 2016 the year when this technology started to hit the big time.
One of the main touch points the average consumer is having with these technologies is in the area of gaming and it is this industry which is at the forefront of experimentation and deployment.
The phenomenal success of Niantic Labs’s Pokemon Go was a clear sign that the world is ready to embrace gaming in a new way.
For Pokemon Go that was through augmented reality, the success of which saw it surge 50X past what the company planned for and now over 600 million downloads.
Success like this is bound to spark a whole raft of augmented reality games over the next year.
2016 saw AlphaGo, a computer program developed by Google DeepMind , beat a human at Go for the first time.
Pokemon Go achieved unexpected levels of success.
Thanks to the successful development of these technologies and an increasing desire from gamers to experience more realistic games it is inevitable that 2017 will see more AI, VR, and AR.
Blizzard and DeepMind
Blizzard, one of the largest game developers and publishers in the world, responsible for games such as Warcraft, Diablo, and the StarCraft series has entered into a partnership with Google DeepMind.
The AI systems are going to be put to work with StarCraft II so that it can learn the real-time strategy game.
Currently in development, the AI is being given the tools to play the game and to make things fair, so that it doesn’t cheat, the AI is having its calculated executions limited per minute to fit in line with what a human can input per second.
StarCraft II DeepMind feature layer API
While certainly a gimmick that will help increase interest in the game, it is also going to be of great benefit to Blizzard.
The company is going to use the data in order to improve their AI for video games by monitoring DeepMind and learning to customer-tailor an AI to a player’s skill and playing style.
Games could end up being a lot more dynamic thanks to the use of AI.
As previously mentioned, Pokemon Go was a massive success for Niantic. Now there are numerous rumours flying around that a ‘Harry Potter Go’ game could be in the works.
In theory this could work simply based on the subject matter, there are numerous critters in the Harry Potter world and given the recent release of Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, it would certainly help to boost interest from fans.
The rumour mill suggests that J.K. Rowling, Warner Bros and Niantic are in discussions about a possible partnership, but this is all currently speculation.
While it is not certain to happen there is definitely a lot of interest from fans. One online petition has already gained over 100,000 signatures while another has over 61,000. It would seem that this is something that fans want to happen.
In 2011 Ubisoft’s Yves Jacquier, executive director, production studio services, said that the company was investing in developing other ways of thinking about game production, mainly AI.
He told GamesIndustry.biz: “AI has always been the real battleground. The challenge is that, if you see an AI coming, you’ve failed. And that’s a problem we have to overcome as we create the impression of flawless, seamless worlds.”
The video game developer and publisher, which is famous for games such as Far Cry and Assassin’s Creed, is looking to push the gaming boundaries of AI.
The franchise from Ubisoft has increasingly used AI. Image: Ubisoft.
The problem with the goal is that there isn’t the need for an autonomous intelligence, the need is for an actor that responds to the situation it is placed in, an intelligent character.
The hope is that the introduction of AI can produce unscripted actions that are essentially authored by the player.
This would mean that if you run up to an average bystander in a game and stand strangely close to them, that bystander would be able to react intelligently.
Virtual reality headsets have become all the rage over the past year with the likes of Google, Sony, Microsoft, and Facebook’s Oculus Rift all bringing new hardware to the market.
While previous attempts at VR gaming over the years have typically fallen flat due to the technology just not being up to scratch, users left feeling nauseated and game play lacking in quality, the new generation of headsets is helping to spark a revolution.
The Microsoft HoloLens vision.
Soon users will be able to be their favourite characters and really live the game.
For example Batman: Arkham VR for PlayStation 4 will allow gamers to be Batman. Currently the games lack full immersion, as even the best graphics aren’t quite up to mimicking real life and your brain is smart enough to figure out that this is a virtual world and not a real one.
Hurdles still need to be overcome, such as price, but as these are overcome there will be more and more games that turn to VR to give the gamer an immersive experience.
According to Technavio the global gamification market is expected to exceed $6bn by 2019, growing at a rate of over 48%.
This is no real surprise as all areas of life look to new ways to spice up work and education.
One sure fire way to get students and employees more involved is to bring in things like VR. The idea is getting enough support that recently Erik Martin, policy adviser at the White House’s Office of Science and Technology Policy recently recommended people look at funding opportunities for ideas that look to meld education with VR.
L’Oreal VR trials are being done with 8i and Matrix.
There’s even the example of L’Oreal targeting salon stylists with a virtual reality hair education program in partnership with 8i and Matrix.
The hope is that hair stylists will be able to avoid trips away to training courses by instead using a VR app.