AI is in a weird spot these days. New developments of technology are incorporating better AI to make our lives better like autonomous cars, though some are worried if it will become too smart and overtake the human race one day. However, in the gaming industry, AI has been a core feature right from the start but has getting less push, you can see and hear so many complaints of games with too stupid AI.
Ubisoft is stepping up to help develop AI for games and for everyday use with its new research unit, dubbed “La Forge”. According to Techcrunch, the new unit will not only have AI programmers, but also academic researches to help the advance the field. The research here gets to be used in games, making them better (which will essentially drive more sales), while the academics get access to all the resources within the studio for research and publish the work and spread the knowledge gained.
“Games drive innovation, and innovation drives games. We started working with academics a while ago, as early as 2011, on how to combine AI with game ecosystem,” said Yves Jacquier, head of the La Forge project at Ubisoft Montreal.
One example of the kind of work that Ubisoft has done that would benefit outside of games is their AI for the traffic in Watch Dogs 2. The open world can be used for researches to play around with how the AI cars behave, as a safe place to test out autonomous cars. Another example is physics-based movement, where researchers and programmers have access to tons of motion capture data to figure out how to make better automated animations, and having this feature well-developed will also help designing better prosthetics. The last example that would benefit from this initiative is to manage toxic communities.
La Forge has started one and a half years ago, according to Jacquier. Papers on their research efforts have yet to materialise, but they are on their way. “Obviously we want to make sure that when someone is publishing something, we don’t want our unannounced games and stuff like that being publicized but we do think that being open, publishing, is a way to help us bring in leaders in the field,” he said.
Ubisoft is allocating $200,000 USD a year for the next five years to help this initiative. In another report by Gamesindustry.biz, Jacquier stated that the next generation of consoles will see AI be the key feature for quality games instead of just sheer graphics prowess.
“We think that the next generation of consoles won’t have these limits any more, ” he said.
“Games might have more realistic graphics and more on-screen, but what’s the value of making something more realistic and better animated if you have poor AI?”