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Video game NPCs may become much more intriguing thanks to new AI technology



Video game NPCs may become much more intriguing thanks to new AI technology

In video games, non-player characters (NPCs) often have a somewhat narrow range. They may only have a limited supply of pre-written answers for your queries, but they mostly serve as plot devices or filler.

But Convai thinks they have a lot more to offer.

The AI company made waves at the Nvidia press conference at CES earlier this month by demonstrating a technique that combined generative AI with NPCs and allowed users to have unscripted, conversational interactions with the in-game characters.

“What we are doing is giving these NPCs a mind,” Purnendu Mukherjee, founder and CEO of the San Jose-based Convai tells Fast Company. “So much so that they’re able to have a natural conversation with us. You can talk to them about anything. Not only can you do a voice-to-voice conversation, they show emotion. They have the right facial expressions. And in a 3D environment, the next level of cognition is they can perceive the environment and interact with it.”

The dialogues don’t seem particularly human. It takes a little while for the NPCs to respond to your questions, and the facial movements might use some work, but overall, it’s a significant improvement over the blank looks you get when attempting to find out information in, say, Skyrim.

Cloud computing powers the AI. In the game, characters can “see” and “hear” you, as well as your voice—you converse with these characters directly instead of selecting answers from a predetermined list of text questions. Your device receives their replies, which are then locally generated into the game.

An in-game partner that goes on quests with you or just a regular villager can be the NPC you engage with. Furthermore, Mukherjee notes that there are precautions against people trying to create artificial intelligence hallucinations or having villagers in a period-based game like Assassin’s Creed debate current events.

“They will stay in character,” he says. “They will not break character. If you’re interacting with a professor or medieval merchant and start talking about something outside of that world, they will say, ‘What are you talking about? I have no idea what that is.’ . . . Developers have the complete freedom to say how far [characters] can go from their backstory and how restrictive they want to keep them.”

But, you will have more options with these characters than you do with the existing NPCs. Asking an NPC to surrender their life in order to progress in the game is one example Mukherjee provides, and this may lead to some really intriguing morality tales in video games.

Furthermore, there are undoubtedly applications for Convai technology outside of the gaming industry. According to Mukherjee, AI-generated figures might serve as marketing representatives or virtual concierges in hotels or airports, providing directions based on location-based information.

Mukherjee predicts that the technology will soon be used in the real world, while Convai claims that it is unable to disclose the names of the companies it now works with due to contractual obligations. It will come from small to mid-sized creators at first because they usually release games more quickly. Convai claims that in order to integrate the technology into games, it is collaborating with bigger studios.

“They’re being more conservative about announcing this,” Mukherjee says. “That will probably be another two or three years. . . . We have a bunch of partners, but it’s not our information to share.”


Biden, Kishida Secure Support from Amazon and Nvidia for $50 Million Joint AI Research Program



As the two countries seek to enhance cooperation around the rapidly advancing technology, President Joe Biden and Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida have enlisted Inc. and Nvidia Corp. to fund a new joint artificial intelligence research program.

A senior US official briefed reporters prior to Wednesday’s official visit at the White House, stating that the $50 million project will be a collaborative effort between Tsukuba University outside of Tokyo and the University of Washington in Seattle. A separate collaborative AI research program between Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh and Tokyo’s Keio University is also being planned by the two nations.

The push for greater research into artificial intelligence comes as the Biden administration is weighing a series of new regulations designed to minimize the risks of AI technology, which has developed as a key focus for tech companies. The White House announced late last month that federal agencies have until the end of the year to determine how they will assess, test, and monitor the impact of government use of AI technology.

In addition to the university-led projects, Microsoft Corp. announced on Tuesday that it would invest $2.9 billion to expand its cloud computing and artificial intelligence infrastructure in Japan. Brad Smith, the president of Microsoft, met with Kishida on Tuesday. The company released a statement announcing its intention to establish a new AI and robotics lab in Japan.

Kishida, the second-largest economy in Asia, urged American business executives to invest more in Japan’s developing technologies on Tuesday.

“Your investments will enable Japan’s economic growth — which will also be capital for more investments from Japan to the US,” Kishida said at a roundtable with business leaders in Washington.

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OnePlus and OPPO Collaborate with Google to Introduce Gemini Models for Enhanced Smartphone AI



As anticipated, original equipment manufacturers, or OEMs, are heavily integrating AI into their products. Google is working with OnePlus, OPPO, and other companies to integrate Gemini models into their smartphones. They intend to introduce the Gemini models on smartphones later this year, becoming the first OEMs to do so. Gemini models will go on sale later in 2024, as announced at the Google Cloud Next 24 event. Gemini models are designed to provide users with an enhanced artificial intelligence (AI) experience on their gadgets.

Customers in China can now create AI content on-the-go with devices like the OnePlus 12 and OPPO Find X7 thanks to OnePlus and OPPO’s Generative AI models.

The AI Eraser tool was recently made available to all OnePlus customers worldwide. This AI-powered tool lets users remove unwanted objects from their photos. For OnePlus and OPPO, AI Eraser is only the beginning.

In the future, the businesses hope to add more AI-powered features like creating original social media content and summarizing news stories and audio.

AndesGPT LLM from OnePlus and OPPO powers AI Eraser. Even though the Samsung Galaxy S24 and Google Pixel 8 series already have this feature, it is still encouraging to see OnePlus and OPPO taking the initiative to include AI capabilities in their products.

OnePlus and OPPO devices will be able to provide customers with a more comprehensive and sophisticated AI experience with the release of the Gemini models. It is important to remember that OnePlus and OPPO already power the Trinity Engine, which makes using phones incredibly smooth, and use AI and computational mathematics to enhance mobile photography.

By 2024, more original equipment manufacturers should have AI capabilities on their products. This is probably going to help Google because OEMs will use Gemini as the foundation upon which to build their features.

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Meta Explores AI-Enabled Search Bar on Instagram



In an attempt to expand the user base for its generative AI-powered products, Meta is moving forward. The business is experimenting with inserting Meta AI into the Instagram search bar for both chat with AI and content discovery, in addition to testing the chatbot Meta AI with users in nations like India on WhatsApp.

When you type a query into the search bar, Meta AI initiates a direct message (DM) exchange in which you can ask questions or respond to pre-programmed prompts. Aravind Srinivas, CEO of Perplexity AI, pointed out that the prompt screen’s design is similar to the startup’s search screen.

Plus, it might make it easier for you to find fresh Instagram content. As demonstrated in a user-posted video on Threads, you can search for Reels related to a particular topic by tapping on a prompt such as “Beautiful Maui sunset Reels.”

Additionally, TechCrunch spoke with a few users who had the ability to instruct Meta AI to look for recommendations for Reels.

By using generative AI to surface new content from networks like Instagram, Meta hopes to go beyond text generation.

With TechCrunch, Meta verified the results of its Instagram AI experiment. But the company didn’t say whether or not it uses generative AI technology for search.

A Meta representative told TechCrunch, “We’re testing a range of our generative AI-powered experiences publicly in a limited capacity. They are under development in varying phases.”

There are a ton of posts available discussing Instagram search quality. It is therefore not surprising that Meta would want to enhance search through the use of generative AI.

Furthermore, Instagram should be easier to find than TikTok, according to Meta. In order to display results from Reddit and TikTok, Google unveiled a new perspectives feature last year. Instagram is developing a feature called “Visibility off Instagram” that could allow posts to appear in search engine results, according to reverse engineer Alessandro Paluzzi, who made this discovery earlier this week on X.

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