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The term “character AI” is not used extensively online – in fact, popular Google results for this term seem to come almost exclusively from a piece written in RoboHub – however, many IT professionals have an understanding of what character AI means, and some companies are choosing to make significant investments in this type of technology.
Character AI is predominantly defined as artificial intelligence work that builds characters with attributes and behaviors that humans see as authentic, whether they are ascribed to humans or independent robotic entities. In other words, character AI is the quest to build interactive characters with special intelligence, often through looking at human behavior and modeling it in some way.
One of the biggest uses of the term “character AI” is in gaming, and this is one area where companies might invest in building this kind of artificial intelligence.
In complex games, building character AI means establishing and implementing non-player characters within the game. These characters are not controlled by humans – they are autonomous and auto-generated by the game itself. However, as non-player characters, they share attributes with player characters – so that sometimes the human players can’t even tell whether a given character is controlled by a human or not.
This goes back to the classic idea of a accomplishing a “Turing test,” named after the famous mathematician Alan Turing of the mid-20th century – where a Turing test completion means that a technology has tricked human users into thinking that it is controlled by a human.
“When we talk about making an AI character, we’re basically saying we want to make characters that can respond in a seemingly sentient way, similar to a living thing or even like a human,” said Jacob Loewenstein, head of business at AR startup Spatial.
That apparent sentience seems tantalizingly close to becoming reality. Some AI characters can already recognize facial expressions and a wide variety of objects, speak and listen and answer questions, and process a variety of other inputs in building increasingly-lifelike outputs.
If given a digital body, they can walk around in a headset or on a screen. One thing they can’t do well, though, is understand us and the world at large beyond a surface level.