Artificial Intelligence and Digital Entertainment
2D1381, Fall 2005

Instructor: Rand Waltzman


News Item:  At his keynote address to SIGGRAPH on 1/8/2005, George Lucas said that the next breakthrough in gaming is artificial intelligence and voice recognition:

"I want to get to a point where you can talk to the game and it will talk back.  I’m really pushing for advances in artificial intelligence and intelligent voice recognition technology. I think that will change games from first person shooters narratives to intelligent and challenging first-person shooter type dramas."


Well, I agree completely with Mr. Lucas.  That is why I have chosen the special theme of this year’s course to be applications of artificial intelligence to digital entertainment.  “Entertainment” is defined in Webster’s New Collegiate Dictionary as “something diverting or engaging.”  I would extend this definition to defining “Digital Entertainment” as “something diverting or engaging whose delivery is supported by digital electronics.”

My choice of digital entertainment as the theme for this year’s course coincides with the premier of the The First Annual Artificial Intelligence and Interactive Digital Entertainment Conference sponsored by the American Association for Artificial Intelligence (June 1-3, Los Angeles, California).

During the past 30 years, many exciting techniques have been developed in the AI research community.  What is even more exciting is that the last few years have seen the development of digital electronic technology that makes it practical to build and deliver entertainment systems that use this vast store of AI research.  The founding of the above mentioned conference reflects this situation.

Many people equate the term digital entertainment with games.  As you will see in this course games, while certainly an import aspect of digital entertainment, are only a part of the story.  For example, there are many in the industry who believe that interactive story telling in its various current and potential forms will eventually dwarf games in importance in terms of the number of people using the technology and therefore in economic importance.  As another example, consider what one might refer to as assisted digital entertainment technology.  One instance of this is robots that play with you or provide companionship and diversion in a variety of ways.  Another would be an I-pod that recommends listening selections to you based on your mood (which it can determine, for example, by asking you a few simple questions).

Not only is AI technology important for use in enhancing the experience of digital entertainment, but it is important for its production as well.  As digital entertainment becomes more sophisticated, the cost of production is skyrocketing and any techniques that can help reduce costs and make production more efficient will be in great demand.  In this course we will cover both aspects of applications of AI technology, i.e., the production and the experience of digital entertainment.

The lectures will consist of discussions and demonstrations of existing AI technology and how they are and can be applied to the experience and production of all types of digital entertainment.  A recurring theme in the course will be ways in which you can identify opportunities for application of AI technology as well as how to turn those opportunities into reality.

There will be several exercises where you will be able to test out some of these techniques (for example, using StarLogo to design creatures that exhibit swarming behavior).  In addition there will be a term paper that will give you the chance to come up with some ideas of your own.  There is no written exam (tenta) for the course.


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