IBM’s Watson division is working with the creators of the Unity game engine on an open-source SDK that could make video games (and anything else built with Unity, such as virtual-reality environments) a whole lot smarter.
With Watson integration, games and simulations will have an improved ability to comprehend natural language, including speakers’ intent, and respond intelligently. Developers who test out the SDK (available under an Apache 2.0 license) will find that it features C# service abstractions, as well as prefabricated “widgets” that “will automatically connect to other compatible widgets and communicate automatically with each other,” in the words of IBM’s website. For those developers who want a higher degree of control over the code, the SDK allows them to override these automatic widget connections.
IBM describes the SDK as “useful tools to configure your Watson Developer Cloud services, train your Natural Language Classifiers and manage dialog data in the Watson Developer Cloud.” Future releases will supposedly include tools that enable users to speak more naturally to the software, as well as some kind of training module for development teams building the games or applications.
With deeper natural-language integration, developers could build a generation of games that allow users to talk to on-screen characters in a “natural” way. This could become increasingly vital in the realms of virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR), where the spoken word could serve as a more efficient controller than a physical handset or virtual buttons. As the use-cases for VR and AR expand from gaming to other industries, the potential use for voice commands (and language comprehension) widens even further; a training simulation, for example, could respond quickly to an instructor’s spoken commands, or ask for clarification if a user is unclear.
For IBM, the benefits of teaming with Unity—one of the most prominent game-development platforms—are pretty clear: first, it could place Watson into the workflow of thousands of game designers around the world, and second, it could make IBM a big player in the nascent-but-growing worlds of VR and AR.