If SILVIA can in fact respond naturally to conversational topics within a video game by the means of an in-game character simply looking within the direction of a NPC – interaction in some form or another, SILVIA can drastically change the way we interact with games. RPGs are the obvious answer, clearly, but those in a first-person-perspective which use a silent protagonist as a catalyst for narrative and player immersion could spawn a new genre perhaps…a “Talking Simulator”. Those such as Bioshock or Half-Life come to mind.
AM: This is exactly what we want to bring to gaming and entertainment. We are using our SILVIA platform to introduce an entirely new way to develop characters and interact with them. We believe this will give developers an ability to create rich interactive experiences that feel more natural and immersive, and give players a freedom to drive the story forward in a way that’s never before been possible.
While the technology has been built from the ground up to be lightweight, portable and modular – 10 years of development to ensure efficiency – universal across a a wide-range of platforms, would computing power pose any limitations to how effectively and how extensively SILVIA can be used? Playing a game on one platform versus playing the same game on another platform.
AM: SILVIA typically runs in under 5 megabytes of space, and is governed by extremely optimized and efficient algorithms. The core .dll is only a few hundred kilobytes. It will run as smoothly on a $20 Android phone as it will on a high-end gaming PC.
Learning from those which have come before, as well as those currently available, including SILVIA – what sort of limitations, if any – do you think that future iterations and influences will have to be overcome, before it’s widely adopted amongst the mainstream – as well as being ideal for use within consumer equipment?
Voice control functionality is fine and all, but at the end of the day it holds about as much benefit as 3D televisions, wireless controllers and vibrational motors on gamepads. – They’re fine but they do absolutely nothing for the experience when using the device or software. “Gimmick” is by no means a term I would apply to SILVIA, given the little I have seen. But at the same time, it’s not as of yet widely known.
AM: One thing that must be overcome, which Cognitive Code is actively offering a solution for, is that tools to create conversational intelligence need to be widely available and easy to use. Right now, the natural language systems that are most commonly known do not offer adequate solutions for developers to create their own applications and experiences. I would say that they’re a bit of a black box for most people who are interested in such technology. And the natural language systems that are freely available to use are generally limited and aren’t true artificial intelligence platforms.
As a designer, I can come up with a million ways to deploy SILVIA, and in all sorts of markets. But no matter how we scale as a company, we could never implement them all. At Cognitive Code, we want to put our technology in the hands of both professional and independent developers so that they can create the experiences that we will never have time to develop ourselves. I know from personal experience that when you put the tools for great technology in the hands of creative people, they will do things you would never dream of.
Machines, computers, hardware and software. There seems to be an inherent link to technology adhering to the name of a lady, whether that be by design or unintentional.
Now, I’ve heard SILVIA – if the name wasn’t evident – described as a “She”. Comfortability between man and machine maybe – being something we as human beings can relate to in order to feel at ease when communicating with something that’s artificial. Myself, being quite old-school in many respects – the “Detective Spooner to Asimov’s I-Robot”, I still refer to my PC, my phone, computing systems simply as “It”.
AM: This point is often brought up when it comes to AI. My guess would be that it’s related to the tendency of human beings to talk to, or refer to like a living thing, certain types of inanimate objects that they are attached to (a ship being the obvious example). I think it’s related to the way we anthropomorphize objects and project human qualities that aren’t there. I’m certainly guilty of referring to SILVIA as “she” all the time. I’m sure there’s a psychological explanation out there. On the other hand, it may just be the presentation of the avatar. No one would ever mistake HAL in 2001 for being female. SILVIA was designed to be female, but she can be repackaged into any form we’d like really.
What’s next for you? Will you return to game development in the sense of SILVIA being deployed for a title which can truly demonstrate its potential?
AM: Presently we are in closed beta of the new Professional and Community editions of our development tools, which we will be launching publicly before summer. We will be creating a SILVIA Developer’s Network, as well as standing up community forums for support and idea sharing. The model will be similar to Unity or Unreal, where the tools are free for non-commercial purposes.
At the same time, we are collaborating with a number of developers who are exploring our technology for their own potential game ideas. We also have a number of Enterprise projects in the work, as well as projects in several other spaces. So right now, the focus is very much on continuing development on the platform, and creating the pipelines that other developers will use for their own creations.
And then after that, I have a number of my own game ideas using SILVIA that I’d certainly love to develop.
Kal Simpson is a writer & content creator for UK online retailer and media outlet Dino PC. When he's not producing videos and making memes on social media, Kal freelances in games journalism – where he's interviewed a number of figures from both the PC hardware and video game industry.