This post is about the currently occurring convergence of advanced technologies, specifically Artificial Intelligence and Virtual Environments. For me, convergence is one of the most powerful conditions in technology. The convergence of AI and VEs is a significant step in providing us with a new dimension as to how intelligent autonomous content contributes to the virtual environment and overall user experience.
For the most part, virtual environments are visually compelling but empty spaces. We of course can incorporate interactive elements but even they are somewhat static in nature. Virtual environments are more than ready to incorporate aspects of physical reality that require intelligent behaviour.
This combination of intelligent techniques and tools, embodied in autonomous creatures and agents, together with effective means for their graphical representation and interaction of various kinds, has given rise to a new area of convergence which we call intelligent virtual environments. The fundamental factors driving the proliferation of these technologies are the available computational power, sophisticated graphics software and the maturity of Natural Language Processing.
Virtual Reality (VR)
Virtual Environments (VE)
Artificial Intelligence (AI)
*Artificial Life (AL)
*Note: I’ll assume that most people reading this are familiar with AI, VR and VEs. Artificial life is a field of study wherein researchers examine systems related to natural life, its processes, and its evolution, through the use of simulations with computer models, robotics, and biochemistry.
Reference: I feel that AI generative art is the first in a rapid series of iterations toward the dynamic creation of virtual 3D content and I cover this in a previous article called ‘AI and Neural Networks to Create Virtual Content’.
One of the most active areas of research is in Autonomous Agents. As a research field in AI when related to virtual environments ‘agents’ operate on a user’s behalf without interference. For example, crowds, traffic and virtual humans that have the ability to function and interact with the environment and the users appropriately demonstrating real-world behaviours and intellect. I’ve reviewed several of the studies that have been conducted in an attempt to determine ways to incorporate these technologies in what we provide our clients.
Populating urban environments with crowds (Musse and Thalmann, 1997)
Populating urban environments with traffic (Wright et al., 1998)
Virtual humans (Thalmann and Thalmann, 1998)
Virtual actors (Shawver, 1997; Wavish and Connah, 1997)
Virtual non-humans (Terzopoulos et al., 1994)
VE tools for modelling behaviour and intelligence (VRML Consortium, 1998)
The goal we are all aiming for is authentic agent behaviour and agent believability, or agents as a way of extending VEs into new application areas. This includes synthetic agents, virtual actors, virtual humans and avatars (physical representations of users) in 3D multi-user environments.
Researchers in the field of artificial life have altogether more ambitious aims in some cases. These include the creation of virtual worlds containing digital life, complete with coherent physical laws, possibly, but not necessarily, similar to those of the real world.
Some see distributed interactive virtual environments as a basis for the development of such virtual worlds, providing an on-line laboratory for the investigation of AL and of long-term autonomous interaction between AL forms and virtual environments.
The metaverse is an infinitely spatial environment and we need to populate it with intelligent agents. These agents will be necessary to ensure everyone’s safety and to provide conduits to utilising the vast potential the metaverse represents. Standards are being established and as these technologies mature, these will evolve to accommodate a virtual universe brimming with intelligent autonomous agents that coexist and enable us in the metaverse.