Tuesday, June 09, 2009

More Advancements in Interactive Technology

Natal and the Milo Project weren't the only technological wonders on display at E3. Here's a new technology from Sony that will soon enhance it's Playstation Console:

In this case, the magic isn't so much creating the illusion of personal interactivity, but in enhancing the immersive technology that makes advanced gaming so addictive. In Sony's approach, we won't lose a controller entirely. Here, the complicated controller is reduced to a sensor that will work intuitively based upon moving the sensor through the air. A battle in the massive multiplayer game "Worlds of Warcraft" could no longer be a question of moving a few fingers on a keyboard or controller, but reflect real-world, full body actions mimiced by an onscreen alterego.

Of course, that would seem to make gaming a much more physical experience. Now THERE'S a solution to childhood obesity!

Monday, June 08, 2009

Another Viewpoint on Milo

I wanted to add this article from Gamer.Blorge to the resources in the previous post. This claims that most of what appears in the "Milo" video is "smoke and mirrors."

As I've previously mentioned, the voice recognition is not as advanced as it seems to be - it is very much an illusion - but based on sophisticated input, as I mentioned in the last post.

Also, there's commentary that the "behind closed doors" demo as E3 was very controlled and perhaps manipulated. I'm sure it was. That's why is was behind closed doors. To that criticism, I would respond, "Still not bad for just a few months of development."

At the very least, this is a concept that is firing imaginations around the world. "Milo" or not, I suspect that we'll see applications of this sort of technology exploding across the entertainment industry very shortly.

This is, above all, a vision of the future - and one that isn't really that far off.

More on Milo

I found this interview on the Eurogamer.net website with the head of Lionhead, Peter Molyneux, about the development of the "Milo" project. Molyneux provided more details than the E3 presentation.

The Milo game actually involves two characters: Milo (or Miley, the girl) and Kate, his dog. In effect, this will in some ways share certain elements with the Sims games in that Milo's happiness and evolution will depend upon the help and opportunities you provide. Unlike The Sims, your interaction will be seemingly "one-on-one" with Milo - you'll talk to him, and he'll respond.

Molyneux makes no claims about Milo's sophistication. In the interview, he says,

"Milo can recognise the emotions on your face and the emotions in your voice. He can recognise certain words you say. You can have conversations with him, you can read stories to him. We're trying to bring all these things together. Some of them are tricks - I'll be absolutely honest with you - to make you believe Milo's real."

At Molyneux's suggestion, the reporter tells Milo a random joke. Milo giggles. But did he "understand?"

"Now, he didn't really understand every word you said, but from the tone of your voice he guessed you were telling a joke."

While Milo is incredibly sophisticated, it's ability to "understand" is really a matter of reading audio and visual clues from the player, rather than understanding in great detail the meaning of the communication - much the same way that a good fortune teller can anticipate a proper response from facial expressions and body language.

If you're interested in the "Milo Project," this is interview is a good place to explore the concept. You can also visit the website for Lionhead Studios, developer of Milo. There's not much there about Milo, but they have set up this public forum.

Thursday, June 04, 2009

MILO: The Next Big Thing?

I just saw a video of a upcoming product from Microsoft.  Now, normally a product announcement from Microsoft invites scorn and doubt, but I can't help being fascinated with this one.  It's an addition to the XBOX 360 game console, and works with the new "NATAL" system, which allows the system to be used without game controllers.  According to the demos, the system will simply recognize your body as it moves and behave accordingly. It also has a voice recognition  feature that is advanced enough to respond quickly and accurately.  Does it work?  time will tell - but even if this is five years down the road (they claim it's about a year to eighteen months out....but that's Microsoft), it's extraordinary.  So far, it seems like an exciting improvement on the Nintendo Wii.  If that's all it was, I wouldn't bother writing here about it (notice how long it's been since my last entry).

THIS is the reason I'm excited:

If this can work as shown - this will not only change the nature of gaming, but of entertainment as well.  This might seem a bit creepy as first (one of the common descriptions of Milo, by the way), but what he (it!) represents is mind-exapnding.

Interacting with sophisticated artificial intelligence like this opens up so many new avenues, the list is nearly endless.  

Imagine an immersive version of the "Sims" games, in which you interact directly with Sims - not in the nonsense language of the game, but in plain English! 

Imagine kids questioning Julius Caeser as he stands in the Forum in Rome, or George Washington, or, for that matter, Martin Luther King.  History will (almost) come alive as a classroom - or an individual student - develops a personal relationship with historical figures.

Instead of simply watching a horror movie, imagine interacting with the characters in the production.  Say hello to Hannibal Lector!

I look forward to seeing the progress of this technology. As the saying goes, "it could change everything."

Other related links:

Project NATAL:

Live Demo at E3: