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Towards a smarter game: AI conference heads to Boston

Posted by Michael Warshaw  May 13, 2013 01:41 PM

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By Dr. Gita Sukthankar, assistant professor, University of Central Florida

Ever wonder how a character in a video game knows the right thing to say? Or have you been frustrated when your non-player companion messes up an easy tactical move? If so, come to the Ninth Annual AAAI Conference on Artificial Intelligence and Interactive Digital Entertainment (AIIDE) on October 14-18th, 2013, at Northeastern University. That will be the place to talk about what works and doesn’t work when it comes to artificial intelligence in computer games.

After several years in California, the conference is coming to the vibrant game development community of Greater Boston. AIIDE 2013 is being sponsored by two local companies -- Charles River Analytics and Boston Dynamics -- that work on the more "serious" facets of game research: simulation, modeling, and training.

Artificial intelligence (AI) design utilizes smart agents that are capable of perception, cognition, and action in complex environments. Many aspects of game development and design can benefit from the use of artificial intelligence techniques, including behavior authoring, level generation, play-testing, player modeling, and structuring narrative flow. At AIIDE, there are presentations on algorithmic improvements to animation, planning, natural language processing, and machine learning. The conference unites attendees to network and swap ideas about entertainment applications of the future, including areas such as personal robotics and computer-generated art.

One new topic at AIIDE is the use of machine learning techniques for player modeling and game analytics. These techniques can be used to understand customer preferences, tune the in-game experience, and discover fraudulent trading activities. Many games include telemetry systems, originally designed for debugging, that can be used to collect general data about game play. The study of user log histories can reveal statistical trends of behavior; The challenge is sifting through terabytes of data to discover what the players like and dislike based on subtle shifts in the frequency of the their action selections.

This year, AIIDE will host a new workshop in game analytics, along with workshops on intelligent narrative technologies, game aesthetics, musical metacreation, and serious games.

The main conference will feature talks from prominent researchers and game developers, including Richard Evans (Linden Lab), Dr. Fox Harrell (MIT), Aleissia Laidacker (Ubisoft), and John Abercrombie (Irrational Games). New to 2013: The conference will offer a "playable experiences" track to showcase applications that use AI in novel ways to affect the user's playing experience.

The event will also host the 2013 StarCraft bot competition, which is designed to foster and evaluate the progress of AI research applied to real-time strategy (RTS) games. There will be a man vs. machine demonstration, pitting the winner of the AI competition against an accomplished human player.

Often we think of research advances as being a means of enhancing human productivity, but AIIDE shows the equally important ways that artificial intelligence can bring entertainment, enjoyment, and new experiences into people's lives.

For more information, please see http://www.aiide.org/ or follow on Twitter @AIIDEConference.

The State of Play blog, organized by MassDiGI, features posts by digital and video game industry insiders writing about creativity, innovation, research, and development in the Massachusetts digital entertainment and apps sectors. MassDiGI, based at Becker College, is a statewide center for academic cooperation, entrepreneurship, and economic development across the local games ecosystem. Follow along @Mass_DiGI.

This blog is not written or edited by Boston.com or the Boston Globe.
The author is solely responsible for the content.

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MassDiGI 8-24 287w872.jpgThe State of Play, organized by MassDiGI, features stories by digital and video game developers and business insiders. Follow along @mass_digi.

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