Remember that Façade video game? Released over a decade ago, it was hailed as a leap forward in A.I. based interactive media. You played a character who got invited over to your friend’s apartment for the evening. From the outset, your pals Trip and Grace seemed like a typical couple. But the story unfolds as you typed in responses to them, unraveling the drama and mysteries that laid beneath their marriage. You could type whatever you wanted, really. The player didn’t have to play along with the story. It allowed for a wave of creativity in some cases – folks poking and prodding the AI at every possible angle – but at the end of the day the experience was limited. People were left wanting more.
But they don’t need to wait any longer. The future for video game A.I. has arrived, and her name is SILVIA. Made by a company called Cognitive Code and helmed by CEO Leslie Spring: a man whose engineering experience background has roots in Sony, Electronic Arts, and Disney.
SILVIA is a conversational intelligence system that takes speech and text input, working as a middle-man in communication with operating systems and applications. What raises the bar here is SILVIA doesn’t need to rely on an external database. Instead whatever inputs are received get interpreted by the AI into its own technical language. The dynamic nature of SILVIA is that you can run it within whatever your desired devices and specifications are. You don’t even need an internet connection for the AI to function. It’s not a specific application, rather it helps build and enhance other programs. Already, one can find SILVIA in other industries. Like the U.S. military that use it with simulation exercises.
Think of it as something like Siri or Alexa, with a few surprises of it’s own.
I talked with Cognitive Code’s Chief Product Officer, Alex Mayberry, to understand more about the scalability. “SILVIA is firmly positioned for Enterprise and Cloud deployment, and is currently being utilized by a variety of clients for business intelligence, customer resource management, healthcare solutions, and government applications,” he said.
Back in 2013, Cognitive Code uploaded an introductory video that lays out the basics of what SILVIA is all about.
The encrypted nature of the AI means you don’t have to worry about it being hacked from outside sources as easily, or depend on servers to make the system function properly. You aren’t even confined to a particular language (English, Spanish, Japanese, etc.), as the processing methodology is something that’s capable of adapting to that. Only taking up 5 MB of space, SILVIA is the definition of versatility. Use it to order a pizza, browse for a specific type of car, and as a cruise ship tour guide. It’s all up to you.
Alex Mayberry laid out what SILVIA could do for video games in relatable terms.
Imagine a game like Fallout 4. You have lots of characters you can speak to, but they all provide you with four different input options that trigger various scripted responses. Depending on what you choose, the story goes down different branches. It’s all very structured, very planned out, and very limited.
Now imagine all of those characters in that world, but they are each walking around with their own SILVIA brain inside. That can all carry the knowledge they need to impart to the player, but they can also have their own identity, their own backstory, their own memory, their own agenda. They can even have different emotional states that can be triggered by the player through conversation, changing the way the character behaves and interacts with you.
Beyond this, SILVIA has the ability to modify her brain in real time. Information can be added, deleted, modified, disabled and enabled all in real-time. This means that a character can be created that can change based on in-game decisions and interactions, and can evolve over the course of the game based on how the player engages with it. At the end of the experience, the characters in your game may behave very differently than the ones in mine, purely due to how we played the game.
The amount of freedom is in the developer’s hands. You can control what exactly pushes a story and game narrative forward variably, if desired. To see what Mayberry is describing in action, check out this demonstration Cognitive Code put out.
What we’re talking about here is something that game developers have been trying to convey on their own accord for years. The SILVIA A.I. streamlines that process and takes video games closer to becoming that living and breathing world that studios strive for. But if you want to see how far a Facade-like conversation application can go with SILVIA, there’s examples of that in action as well. It’s possible to make the anime waifu of your dreams and talk with it for the rest of eternity. You can still use voice acting, as the text-to-speech system in place has a logic to it that’s capable of reusing recorded words in order to respond to input.
Mayberry explains it further:
We want to do away with floating text options and conversation trees. Instead of requiring players to read a wall of text in order to find out about their quest, we’re providing the ability to simply have a conversation directly with the quest giver. And because we have proprietary and patented voice technology, we can make that character sound like an actual human being, or an Orc, or an Elf, or anything else desired by the developer.
SILVIA Studio is the playground for developers to make their applications and games a reality. It’s unity-based, so for most it’ll be familiar territory. Immediately you’ll have access to tools and scripts to help you get started. According to Mayberry, Cognitive Code has plans to make a forum for developers to share any project ideas they have or problems they’ve come across. On top of that there’s tutorials online (and more in the works) to walkthrough different aspects of SILVIA step-by-step. You’ll have no problem at all getting your program running on PC (Mac/Linux), mobile devices, or VR platforms.
Cognitive Code will be releasing a Community Edition of their tools at some point, giving access to SILVIA for free in non-commercial purposes. Otherwise, licensing will work in a similar fashion to what Unreal Engine and Unity use.
Keep your eyes peeled on Cognitive Code’s website for more information.