Can AI improve our VR experiences?

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One of the drawbacks of entering a simulated reality while wearing a VR headset is that it’s an unshared experience. You are in awe at what unfolds in front of you, but you have no one to share the wonder with. It’s like traveling to exotic places without a traveling partner. For most people the social aspect of experiences are integral to what makes it pleasurable and memorable. Many users have commented on the isolating effect of a VR experience, signalling a dissatisfaction with the technology that seems contrary to the ongoing hype surrounding it.

Ironically, it’s artificial intelligence (AI) that is set to give us the possibility of social interaction while immersed in virtual reality. One company that is working on bringing this magic about is Rival Theory, an AI company working in the entertainment industry.

Founded in 2010 and headquartered in Albuquerque, New Mexico, Rival Theory received funding from Rothenberg Ventures when it was part of the River Accelerator program. Rival Theory has develop an AI engine called RAIN for the creation of artificially intelligent virtual characters. RAIN is one of the most widely adopted AI engines used by top studios to create characters in games.

On 17 September 2015 Rival Theory announced the creation of its interactive content studio, Sentio Entertainment. Through RAIN, Sentio Entertainment is applying artificial intelligence technology to make characters in a VR environment intelligent and responsive. The characters a user comes across in a virtual world can learn what the user is saying and doing and remember every encounter, enabling them to interact realistically with users.

Imagine a character in a virtual story coming up to you and saying: “Hello. Nice to see you again, shall we continue on our journey to the castle?” Imagine being able to build relationships with characters in a virtual world, influencing the storyline instead of watching it unfold. Suddenly you’re no longer alone. You’re meeting friends and acquaintances inside VR.

According to Twitter more than 60,000 developers worldwide are using RAIN to create interactive characters in Unity 3D.

Rival Theory is working on creating their own narrative experiences in VR which will take the form of episodic storytelling where participants become an integral part of the narrative, creating relationships and engaging in spoken conversation with the characters they meet.

Can’t wait to see what they come up with.