Remember that adorable virtual scamp Milo that Peter Molyneux and Lionhead Studios introduced to the world during this year’s E3? Well, it appears that Molyneux’s most ambitious project yet – primarily creating a digital character that is capable of believably interacting with players through the use of Microsoft’s Project Natal motion technology – will be getting a little help from a very lucky doctoral student.
Lionhead recently sent out a recruitment notice for an AI researcher and programmer interested in doing his/her dissertation on real-time humanoid behavior. While the dissertation would be supervised by the University of Bath and funded in part by the Centre for Digital Entertainment, three of the four years would be spent working at Lionhead Studios in Guildford, England. Judging from that timetable, it seems that whatever the Milo project ends up being, it won’t be ready for at least another three years.
Here’s the position’s official description:
“The target of the research is to use upcoming game technology to create a humanoid character that will enhance the human computer interaction experience. The research should make use of multiple concurrent sensory inputs including 3-dimensional optical and audio, as well as user pose. These inputs may be used as part of communication exchanges, emotional empathy, and possibly physical interactions of some kind such that under a restricted set of circumstances it would appear that the Turing test had been passed between the character on the computer and the human subject. Systems AI engineering will be emphasised, as we aim to develop not only impressive demonstrations, but reusable components for human-like AI systems.”
I’m glad Lionhead threw in that last bit about not wanting to just make impressive demos, because I think most gamers are far more interested in seeing how this groundbreaking technology will be incorporated into the games they’re going to be playing in the next few years than watching another tech demo. Then again, Molyneux doesn't exactly have the best record when it comes to delivering on grandiose gaming tech promises. Maybe this time it will be different? I contacted Lionhead to find out more, so I'll check back in if I hear anything.
Anyone thinking about applying for this dissertation position? You know, if you have time.