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Is it time for proper AI and voice recognition in gaming?

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As gamers, fighting against artificial enemies has been around since the very first AI bot. Whether it’s a non playable enemy in a bloody Doom campaign, CPU player in Smash Bros or a bot in Counter Strike, we have all encountered enemies that are built into the game, designed to replicate a player or other type of intelligent enemy.

Only last year we saw Dota 2’s AI self learning bots take on world class pros and go undefeated. Now this year a division in EA called “SEED” has shown off self learning bots in Battlefield 1.

Traditionally bots are built into the game to the point of knowing everything that’s going on, including player locations and giving them impossible advantages. However they have always been programmed to be worse than players so that despite their inhuman advantages they are still possible to beat. These new self learning bots are not woven into the game so deeply to the point of having inhuman knowledge of the game and player’s status. They only see what is included in their field of view and heads up display which is equal to all players, and can only hear what any player can hear. These bots theoretically have the potential to learn and master the game better than a player, however it has taken them over 300 days of play time to master the basics of the game and they still are easily confused or lost. The next big step for them is familiarizing themselves with the map layout, learning objective strategies, the pros and cons of different weapon loadouts and lastly teamwork with both other bots and real players.

Further to this, I feel now is the time to delve into the world of voice and ask why we don’t have more games with voice recognition.

We have this in our homes, our phones and our cars. Every PC gamer and any serious console gamer has a headset with a microphone so why don’t we have games that we can talk to? I’ve learned some basic programming in my day and have even programmed some simple games. I also made a simple “J.A.R.V.I.S.” program for a school assignment so I know that any headset microphone can be used for this.

Back in 2012 Mass Effect 3 was released for Xbox 360, PS3 and Wii U. The Xbox 360 version of the game could take advantage of the Kinect, allowing the player to give voice commands to their AI companions. They’d listen to orders and say a simple scripted line back to the player before following the order given to them. This feature is possible in any game as long as the player has a microphone – which as mentioned before, most do.

So I did a little research as to why we don’t have more games with voice recognition and I was a bit disappointed to find out that there isn’t any good reason. I did however find a few games that do utilize a players microphone for this very reason; “There Came an Echo”, “Mayday Deep Space” and “Life Line”. Apparently the idea of incorporating a players voice into a game is a question more and more players are asking and something more indie developers are looking into using. Personally I think the idea has lots of potential beyond simple orders to AI teammates.

The reason I bring up both topics of Self Learning AI bots and the idea of using voice controls is because both of these technological ideas are possible now, have improved drastically over the past decade and will continue to become more and more natural. I am going to ask the question that my imagination has been answering ever since I came across these two ideas. What are the possibilities for gaming if we begin to include both pieces of technology? Imagine an AI teammate who could carry a conversation, work as a team, follow orders, walk, aim and shoot like a player and even add to the plot of a bigger and deeper story. Perhaps an AI friend who is unique to you and grows alongside you in the game? What about when this all comes together with VR? Just imagine the possibilities – it would be awesome!

EA have come out to say that self learning bots are the future of both AI teammates and enemies in gaming.  They have every right to think so. They will likely be seen within the coming years and hopefully one day soon incorporated into co-op games. We all know how brutal it is to have useless (or unfair) AI teammates.

The hope is that being able to use your voice to communicate with in-game characters will one day become as natural as talking to your friends in an online game chat, and  I’d like to see the potential for the two ideas to be used together among other advances in the gaming world. VR, clever AI and voice recognition anyone?

Well what do you think? Would you like to be able to use your voice for in game commands and more? How about AI bots more realistically simulating real players? I know I’m looking forward to it but please let us know your thoughts in the comments below.