7 companies taking AI in video games to the next level
Ever since IBM’s computer program Deep Blue beat Garry Kasparov in a 1997 chess match, artificial intelligence (AI) has played an increasingly prominent and productive role in the gaming world. Implemented in many different ways, AI is used to improve game assets, behaviors and environments.
Whether working with behavior trees to influence non-player characters or creating AI programs to beat humans at their own games, the following companies are developing artificial intelligence technologies to enhance the gaming experience.
APEX Game Tools
Location: Copenhagen, Denmark
How it's using AI in games: Founded in 2014, Apex Game Tools creates artificial intelligence solutions and tools for a variety of game genres. In addition to working with other research institutions and universities to enhance AI, Apex does its own research in machine learning, algorithms and cybernetics.
Apex's many products include Utility AI, a scoring-based framework for computer games. Utility AI provides multiple decisions, scores each potential choice and then AI performs the action. Thousands of developers and companies use Apex tools to power its games.
Industry impact: Apex Utility AI can be used in shooter game environments to evaluate whether to load a weapon, fire, take cover or attack.
Location: Irvine, California
How it's using AI in games: Blizzard Entertainment is a leading game development company whose popular titles include World of Warcraft, StarCraft and Diablo.
The company’s StarCraft franchise is a strategy game with single- and multi-player modes. Due to its real-time strategy function, the game is of a particular interest to researchers for testing and analyzing artificial intelligence. While AI products like AlphaGo have mastered tasks like the board game Go, Blizzard’s StarCraft presents new challenges and an environment where AI cannot see the entire space as it can in a board game.
Industry impact: In partnership with Deep Mind, Blizzard released a set of tools called SC2LE that will catalyze Blizzard’s strategy game, StarCraft II, as an environment to research AI.
Location: London, England
How it's using AI in games: DeepMind is a leading AI research organization that was founded in 2010 and acquired by Google in 2014.
Though DeepMind has multi-faceted research roots, the company is responsible for creating AlphaGo, the computer program designed to play the ancient Chinese board game Go. The program initially learned the game by studying thousands of professional and amateur games. AlphaGo Zero (the next version of the AI product) then learned the game by playing against itself and surpassed the level of human play.
Industry impact: In October 2015, AlphaGo successfully defeated a professional human player on a full-sized board. It has since beaten the highest ranked player in the world.
Location: Redwood City, California
How it's using AI in games: Electronic Arts (EA) is a digital interactive entertainment company that develops and delivers game content and online services to more than 300 million players globally.
EA is known for an impressive portfolio of game franchises like Madden NFL, EA Sports, Need for Speed, Battlefield and The Sims, but the company is always innovating. Case in point: a team at EA recently built an AI agent that taught itself to play Battlefield 1.
Industry impact: Besides the self-teaching Battlefield 1 agent, EA developed a 3D game environment built specifically for deep learning networks to navigate.
Location: Raleigh, North Carolina
How it's using AI in games: Opsive is a indie company that creates games and assets on the Unity development platform.
Opsive’s Behavior Designer product is an AI solution that creates behavior trees for the Unity engine. The behavior tree tool lets game developers create agents that shift between sets of tasks that result in non-player character behaviors.
Industry impact: Opsive’s Behavior Designer is currently being used by multiple games, including A Dragon Named Coal, Creativerse, Immortal Redneck and Warcube.
Location: London, England
How it's using AI in games: Spirit AI uses artificial intelligence technology to make digital interactions more human. The company boasts two AI products, Ally and Character Engine, that each has its own purpose within the gaming industry.
Character Engine, an authoring tool and SDK, allows digital characters to communicate more naturally with players through natural language processors. It even understands conversational context, allowing characters to select the best responses or create their own. Ally is an intelligent anti-bullying bot that uses machine learning and predictive analytics to identify abusive language and behaviors within in-game player communities and chatrooms. The product’s purpose is to create a more inclusive and friendly gaming environment.
Industry impact: Ally is currently compatible with online games, detecting and intervening in perceived harassment. Spirit is working to make the bot deployable in virtual reality environments, too.
Location: Miami, Florida
How it's using AI in games: TruSoft is a software company that researches and develops technologies for the advancement of artificial intelligence. Its featured technology, Artificial Contender (AC), is an AI middleware capable of providing behavior-capturing game agents.
Gaming application: The AI technology creates agents with a more natural development style. Rather than simply being programmed, agents can be trained via controller to learn human behaviors and styles of play. Already used in sporting games, AC lets real celebrities and athletes train the game-version of themselves.
Industry impact: AC was used to develop of SONY’s This Is Football game in which AC agents dribble, pass, shoot and perform other skills in a style that resembles their human trainers.
Images via Shutterstock, social media and screenshots of company web pages.