There's a lot of hype going on about Artificial Intelligence (AI), with scaremongering in the media by tech icons such as Elon Musk. In the cultural world, the technologically gullible go off on rants without really knowing what they are talking about. The truth is AI, as in a quantifiable independent source of intelligence, does not exist.
Serious researchers in the field employ different terms, such as machine learning, deep learning, behaviour trees or cognitive science. So, what's what and is there any interest to it?
The current hype, which is actually already receding, is about deep learning, a form of machine learning. Deep learning deals with data in ways which are not easily mathematically described. Data can be classified and generated by training algorithms, more specifically neural networks. This all seems rather dull but can be used to solve complex problems such as image recognition or natural language processing. The concepts behind it are conceptually straightforward and haven't changed much over the years. What has changed is the enormous amounts of data we put in, the scale of the models and the amount of processing power, with more refined results as a consequence. There is a form of magic that seems to emanate from it, because it is an example of emergent behaviour: a simple structure generates complex results.
As an arts organisation deeply involved with technology, CREW often gets the question, do you use AI? The short answer is yes, in a way.
CREW collaborates with research institutes such as INRIA and the University of Augsburg, which employ forms of "AI" in the PRESENT project. For example, UAu's models are used to determine emotional engagement in speech. Based on this input we can get an understanding of how the user is engaged. Is the immersant aroused and in what way? We can use the results to make decisions in our artworks. INRIA takes a different approach, their autonomous agents develop complex behaviour from simple rules on how to interact with their environment. Not strictly AI, but definitely a form of emergence.
On another level, we use what we call "game AI" or behaviour trees. These are systems that are used in video games to define the behaviour of enemies. They can be simple or complex, but there is no magic going on, it's a simple matter of "if this, then do that".
Few video games utilize current academic AI, instead they use this system which has been around forever, because it is practical and allows for predictable outcomes.
For CREW, what is most important is the impact on the immersant. By combining different tools, we create an impression of intelligence. Naturalistic movement, dialogue capabilities, reinforcement learning are aspects of what we as humans require of a digital character to be believable.
So no, there isn't a supercomputer plotting the end of mankind in our basement, but our projects do get more refined with the help of that misleading term, Artificial Intelligence.
Text by Isjtar.