How AI in Video Games is furthering our knowledge of programming AIs in general.

AI had humble beginnings. In 1957, Arthur Samuel successfully played a match of checkers with an artificial opponent. [1] This came with some restrictions however, such as his opponent being the size of the room he was playing in. We’ve come a long way since that almost prehistoric computing period and a new age of AI has dawned on us in video games such as Bioshock Infinite‘s Elizabeth being an almost new standard of AI on her own.

Elizabeth [2] is a very interesting example of AI. She isn’t just a follow along companion or just a recruit you can hire like in The Elder’s Scrolls : Skyrim or Fallout, Elizabeth adapts to the player she is with. She can follow or lead while being reactive to the protagonist character and still proactive in pushing players through the story arcs. The team in charge of programming her faced many challenges in non-combat situations. Will having her function to merely follow the player they said it opened “a comedy of errors” while in play. They knew for this character they needed to step up the AI from previous video games.

They wanted Elizabeth to feel like a real person next to you during the campaign. Never too close to you to be “creepy” but also never straying too far as to become impersonal with the main character. It was a tricky blend but through long hours programming they were able to create what is now a critically acclaimed as the best AI in video game history! It is a far cry from the AI of Watson in Sherlock Holmes : Crimes & Punishments. Who would often feel like he was stalking the player with his obsessive teleporting. (Gif Attached)

At its core, Artificial Intelligence is imbuing interaction between people and machines. Video games already blend this line with player input being the key factor of progressing the story. But what is AI? This is an interesting question Graft, K. [3] posed to multiple game AI developers on Twitter. Some responses were quite interesting such as “Teaching the game to make decisions that provide context for the player’s own decisions”. Now I’m not one to spell the “end is nigh” for teachers out there but that does sound awfully similar to how teachers in school show pupils how to do tasks and homework. Perhaps one day we could see AI implemented into the real world through similar means? Though that is probably as far away from us as we are from that checker game in 1957!

Currently, AI is still a developing format with limited research. Sadly, The video game industry takes almost no note of cutting edge AI research which is truly a shame in my eyes. As if we could combined or albeit limited research of AI with the expertise of developers who knows what we could create. However, the challenge of learning with less data known is well known and almost inspiring to computer scientists these days [4] so it may be possible one day soon we will have Terminators and Personal AI Assistants helping us out in our regular routines!

Thank you all for reading, I hope this article on how AIs are currently evolving was suitably entertaining!

References:

[1] – Togelius, J. Why Video Games are essential for inventing Artificial Intelligence. http://togelius.blogspot.ie/2016/01/why-video-games-are-essential-for.html

[2] – Corriea, A.R. The long road to building AI for Bioshock Infinite’s Elizabeth. http://www.polygon.com/2014/3/18/5522450/the-long-road-to-perfecting-ai-for-bioshock-infinites-elizabeth

[3] – Graft, K. When Artificial Intelligence in Games becomes… Artificially intelligent. http://www.gamasutra.com/view/news/253974/When_artificial_intelligence_in_video_games_becomesartificially_intelligent.php

[4] – Knight, W. To get truly smart, AI might need to play more video games. https://www.technologyreview.com/s/601009/to-get-truly-smart-ai-might-need-to-play-more-video-games/

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How AI in Video Games is furthering our knowledge of programming AIs in general.

Gaming in Education and Holograms

Last year, I discussed Gaming in Education and the positive effects it could enable students between more diverse interesting classes to less likely chance of burning out. While looking into this I discovered Hologram Videos and how some teachers have found ways to incorporate them into their classes (albeit, it is a very limited practice as of right now).

While limited, it is possible to create a hologram with your Smartphone right now if you wanted to try it! I’ll leave a link to the creation of the apparatus you’ll need to make to do so here as well as a video made for holograms.

and once you have this created, place it on the video below for results. (This requires viewing the video below on a Smartphone)

Now, how are these relevant to Gaming in Education? Well, the videos are exceptionally interactive, they’re more or less 3D models of figures, places and such. One day perhaps that Butterfly or Jellyfish could be intractable in a Biography class, allowing “dissection” of creatures without all the grisly bits in between.

We’ve seen great success come from Holograms before from concerts with Tupac from beyond the grave to vocaloids like Hatsune Miku in Japan (Essentially animated musicians coming to life on stage!). But I want to look at the possibility of such a thing coming to the class or boardroom one day. Instead of Skype calls, you could almost be sitting next to someone in the same room while in reality there in America. Would it be possible?

Well, it is sort of a Reality already. The iCandy glass and other Virtual Reality augmentation devices can already perform such a task over skype giving the illusion of real perspectives near the person. That is merely an illusion however, can we take it a step further?

The answer is yes, Cisco have been developing something known as TelePresence Live Holographic Calls and there is even a video circulating YouTube showing off the strides they’ve made (they even had a conference in front of a live audience). So the technology is definitely there! It is just sad to say it is not cost-effective as of yet and the “interactive” nature of this equipment is in its primitive stages as of yet. One day we may see “touch-screens” similar to our smartphones incorporate holograms we can play with on our phones (imagine Pokemon GO where you could pet your virtual friend!) but that is sadly still a futuristic idea but not complete technological jargon! Our technical know-how just may evolve to a stage where holograms are common place everywhere between meetings and in the classroom to give students from primary school to college “hands-on” experience without the actual need for having to actually dirty your hands.

Here is a link to Cisco’s Presentation, it is very interesting and I recommend you give it a watch if you have time! (Or at least the first 2 minutes to see the holograms come on stage). This is quite primitive (it was from 5 years ago) and I believe they were using a projection screen which is technology that can be dated up to 15 years ago but with correct innovation it does show just how far this technology could go.

Thank you for reading!

 

 

Gaming in Education and Holograms

Visual Analysis of “Artemis Fowl”

As my final Digital Humanities assignment of this semester, I was tasked to analyse any publicly available text using some visualization tools such as Voyant 2.0. I chose to analyse Artemis Fowl (2001, E.Colfer) in this way as it was the first book I read as child and nostalgia drew me back to it. There will be spoilers to the plot of this book beyond this point! Consider yourself warned should you wish to delve further.

A-D

So, just what does this jumble of text tell us? At first glimpse it looks pretty meaningless, like a kid just scribbled all over his parents’ walls. However, we can see all the main (and even most of the side characters) names appear in this block of words.

First, we have our main characters:

-Artemis Fowl (His name appears 748 times in total): Our protagonist, the boy genius who kidnaps our second main character, Holly and holds her at ransom.
-Captain Holly (Her name appears 429 times): A fairy and captain to the armies of fairies who live just below our feet.
-Commander Julius Root (His name appears 269 times): Commander of the fairy armies, his mission is to save Holly from Artemis.
-Butler (His name appears 229 times): Artemis’ most loyal and deadly servant, military-trained man but with a soft side for his younger sister.

and our secondary cast:

-Foaly (184 appearances): A centaur who is an expert in all things computing, he is allied with Commander Root.
-Mulch (149 appearances): A convicted criminal Dwarf with a nack for burrowing into places no one else can get to. He is reluctantly recruited by Root when it looks like he may be Holly’s only hope of escape.
-Juliet (84 appearances): Butler’s sister who he cares about above all else, even Artemis.

Now, using Voyant’s Trend tool, we are able to see when and where each character is mentioned in the story. This* is a link to a trend page of voyant which compares the frequency of characters appearing in the story. We can see from it, Artemis is always a character in focus, being the protagonist. However, Holly spikes in importance at chapter two and then is pushed to the side in a way by chapter four while other characters see more of the spotlight. Comparing mentions of characters in this way can show their importance to the story line at that moment (such as Commander Root receiving no mention in chapter one, due to this chapter primarily focusing on the kidnapping of Holly.)

Other words being used such as “Fairy”, “Troll” and even “Human” to an extent in context show us a little of the world in which Artemis Fowl resides. It is a fantasy world where ages ago, humans evolved and pushed fairies (who were weaker bodied but technologically superior) under the Earth, where they stayed and were forgotten about except in myths. Artemis believed in these myths and lures Holly – which is where the story begins, however it shows that in the ancient past of this world humans and other mythical creatures were at war, setting up a resentment of one another bringing racism into the novel as a theme (which is developed on in further installments of the series).

It also allows Colfer to write about fantastical creatures such as Dwarves with the power to burrow miles into the Earth, Trolls – mindless but powerful and dangerous creatures which dwell beneath our feet and so much more which gives this series a real flavour of that “fantastical but almost believeable world” one can truly immerse themselves in.

So, in answering, Voyant allows us to quickly glimpse and assemble the image of an entire book, it’s characters, main themes, genre and even the frequency of characters appearing in one amazing tool. It is a fantastic way to covert raw data into visual text and particularly great at turning novels and texts into one “bite-sized” chunk.

*Link to trending voyant page : http://voyant-tools.org/?corpus=d7d717b6b78e14ed7a0d3f081d420657&query=artemis&query=holly&query=root&withDistributions=raw&docId=799701add56d38cc81a7f6df42c2b527&mode=document&view=Trends

Bibilography:

Eoin Colfer,  Artemis Fowl (2001),  Viking Press

Visual Analysis of “Artemis Fowl”

Open Street Map Participation

Our project was to contribute to Open Street Maps by either responding to an Humanitarian needed cartography initiative or mapping our local neighborhood on Open Street Maps (OSM for short). I chose to participate in initiative #1623 which included mapping Fiji (the island of Vanua Levu from the city of Lekutu to Naduri) as the Island had recently been hit by one of the most powerful storms recorded to date in the Southern Hemisphere. We were tasked with mapping three “blocks” or sections of the map, this included hand drawing roads, buildings and farmland in the affected areas the storm affect Fiji. We were also tasked with reviewing the work of another member of the OSM community and validating there work as correct.

This was the first time I ever attempted to use software such as this and of course, I started off pretty confused. I stumbled into locking myself to Task #300 and edited this area using Bing Maps and ID Editor. I noticed someone more experienced had already filled out a secondary road on this area, which was a boon to someone as inexperienced as I. Knowing this could affect people in that area, I wanted to map this as precisely as I could, so I spent well over an hour mapping ever dirt road, building, farmland and one lake no one else had marked on a nearby adjacent block. Feeling that I had confidently filled out this block, I saved it and marked it as complete. I may also mention that upon starting this the map was 70% complete and had two more experienced members of the community working on nearby blocks with me, this gave me much more confidence in the case of an error being made (by an inexperienced member such as myself) it would be corrected.

After gaining some confidence in using the software I moved onto Task #299 and Task#352. While the task only asked to map roads, I also marked down houses, farmlands and any water features I could find. Though it may not have been required it may certainly be useful knowledge to locals of the area. It certainly is an enriching feeling to know you may be helping emergency services around the world find routes to areas and potentially saving lives. All of my tasks have been set as complete but not yet validated, I am eagerly awaiting validation so I can either see my mistakes and improve from there or potentially even be praised for using the software well as a first timer! (Though I expect the former much more likely than the latter)

Gaining confidence on the software, I decided to validate Task#350 which was submitted by another member of the OSM community. After reviewing their work I noticed they had omitted several roads and had forgone mapping buildings and farmlands completely. I personally edited as many omissions as I could find, when I believed to be finished I validated the work as complete. However, within an hour I received a message from another member of the OSM community. This message stated that they had noticed I was a new account so they checked my validation and noted I had also omitted a road. They added this in and allowed me a second chance to validate Task#350 again. My second validation was accepted as correct.

However, this experience really showed me the community of OSM, they are extremely diligent and keen to fix mistakes as soon as possible. If not, my mistake and omission of that road could have been critical in an emergency service making it to a site in time and not. I was surprised for the level of scrutiny the community shows the mapping but also very thankful for it as it is only after many iterations that a map is charted to complete accuracy.

As a consensus, while OSM is not the easiest to access community, due to the learning curve and figuring out the level of accuracy expected of members, the members are extremely active and welcoming. When criticism occurs, it is only to help each other improve our mapping skills and never an attack on another person. It is exciting to view your interpretation of a map to become locked into place as the true routes of that area. The community strives for accuracy and collaboration. After helping out on this project of mapping Fiji I believe this community is both noble and extremely important. I am impressed by the more experienced members the most of course, the re-correction of my validation and allowing me to submit it again did not turn me away, it made me want to try harder and be more precise with my maps in the future. I firmly believe that as long as members of the community uphold this standard then OSM may even replace google maps in terms of usefulness one day as the members on OSM constantly update everywhere they can.

 

Open Street Map Participation

Digital Research Tool Review

After spending some time looking for interesting tools on the DiRT (Digital Research Tools) directory, I stumbled upon one particularly interesting historical research site. Being an archaeology student, I was drawn to ORBIS, a geospatial network model of the ancient Roman World at the height of its power. (Roughly 200 AD) ORBIS reconstructs the time cost and financial expense associated with a wide range of different types of travel in the Roman Empire.

Background, Development and Research
Developed by Digital Humanities Grant of Stanford University and Center for Textual and Spatial Analysis (CESTA), ORBIS is essentially, a website that gives the feel of a Google Maps for an ancient Roman Empire, however it goes into extreme depth and details on Roman Life. For example, we can explore how a merchant would travel from Roma to Corinthus in the Summer by oxcart and see the routes he would take and expenses that would need to be accounted for. (If you’re curious, it takes roughly nine and a half days and you’ll be taking a detour in Messana.) Finally, we can see that this route would cost you roughly ~252 denarii (ancient Roman Currency), with 250 of the denarii being spent on sea travel.

While ORBIS is a pretty niche site, it is stunningly detailed and could be used as a tool to study questions in various fields of study about antiquity, including trade and social interaction in the past. Below is an image of the rivers and roads that have been modeled into ORBIS.

orbis

ORBIS is a free close-sourced webpage that anyone can access. While it deals with a niche subject matter, anyone can find an interest in discovering forgotten information of the Roman Empire, such as the cost of transporting a kilogram of wheat or a legion of soldiers across the Empire.

Using ORBIS
With ORBIS, it is possible to create your own roman routes and discover the price of transport as a merchant living in the past. ORBIS contains 632 sites of the Roman Empire and covers close to 10 million square kilometres detailing the maritime and terrestrial travel. It even accounts for the monthly wind conditions and strong currents / wave height in increasing or decreasing the cost of travel by sea.

In calculating any route in ORBIS you are presented with three options, “Fastest”, “Cheapest” and “Shortest” routes. The fastest route will always take the least amount of days to go from point A to point B, however it will not take into account the cost factor of sea travel or land travel so will often end up well over the amount of denarii any reasonable business man would ever spend!

The cheapest route option will, as expected, calculate the least expensive route. This route is often much longer than the fastest route, however you’ll have denarii to spare after traveling by these routes! In study, the cheapest routes are often taken by merchants selling grain and can be used to see social interaction of Roman people as they traveled and who they may interact with along the journey.

Finally, the shortest route will calculate the geographically closet route. However, many of the roads or sea-ways were less used and this often results in a journey that is both longer and more expensive that would have been expected.

When you become more advanced at using these routes, you can move onto network diagrams, clustering and flow diagrams which give another perspective on movement based on priority routes and seasons. This is distinct from making routes as this shows the priority of routes during the year. (For example, the cheapest route may be more popular in Summer, but the fastest route may be used more frequently in Winter due to goods being in a higher demand)

Goals
The goal of ORBIS was initially to model an ancient Roman World and contextualize the information of routes that had long since been forgotten in a modern way. This data is now digitized and preserved forever in an interactive medium. It can also be used to analysis the networks of travel and routes in Roman times and can be used to analysis the spatial distant between Roman sites.

To this, I will say ORBIS has achieved its goals, not only does it bring us a modern overview on the topic of Roman socialization and life expenses but it allows us to in a way travel back in time and plan our own routes across the world.

Design and Accessibility
ORBIS is not a simple website to use at first. However they do offer tutorials in the about tab in the top right of the screen which allowed me as a beginner to understand the procedures in making my own routes within 20 minutes.

One small technical problem some may encounter is that this website is designed with Chrome and Safari in mind, so accessing it with Internet Explorer or other web browsers may leave users with unsatisfactory results. However, there is another version of ORBIS (which they link you to immediately when accessing the website) for those browsers.

Final Word
ORBIS is an amazing example of how we can digitized information that is otherwise long forgotten into an interactive website. Some may ponder as to what advantage digitization of the past in such a manner is important in our world. Well, simply put, ORBIS makes finding the records of these routes a simple process rather than the alternative of looking through ancient ledgers to find the same information. In a way, ORBIS even feels like a game where you are managing the routes people travel in ancient Rome, and that makes it not only a useful resource but in a way, fun aswell.

Until next time, this stream is going offline, thank you all for reading!

 

Digital Research Tool Review

On the Topic of Emojis

It seems our module has really taken a shining to this topic. From Andrew Wiggins’ post (which I believe to be the first on this, correct me if I’m wrong) to the most recent presentations with Bohemian Rhapsody by Queen being converted to Emoji by Aisling Kilcawley. It’s pretty apparent this topic really brought some emotes to our group 😉 .

While it’s pretty much old news by this stage and no longer a hot topic of debate, I thought I’d close this blog (well, the necessary posts for this semester) out with the topic that so many of us started off with.

So, we all know what emojis are and there general usage is to make some feel an “emot”-ion from viewing them. What I’m here to introduce to us all today is the various and cultural differences emojis have around the world. We all know the general smilies and emoticons we see on Android or Iphone everyday. (Little picturing listing them below)

all-emoji.png

But did you know in Japan there exists a huge variant to emojis, the kaomoji. They’re slightly more complex than ours (they require 2bits where our emojis only use one and can not be replicated by an English keyboard.) An example : (。=◕‿‿◕=。)

kaomoji

These kaomoji are understandable without the necessity to tilt your head. (for example : =) and ( ^∇^) ). Both represent a happy emotion, but the kaomoji is clearly this without having to tilt your head (though nowadays, applications will often correct emojis to pictures.)

Then this type of kaomoji developed into a western style. This is when kaomoji is replicated on western keyboards. (<(o_o<)) Though, not many kaomoji are imitable.

Beyond Kaomoji from Japan, Korea also have a variant to our standard emojis by using Korean Hangul letters. They’re called Jamo emojis as jamo is the korean word for letter. An example is : ㅠㅠ which represents a crying face.

Eventually the styles of emoji and then there imitations lead to the creation of 2channel style emojis. Essentially, the internet as a culture created their own variant of emojis.Originally appearing on the internet forum board 4chan it combined many different languages (such as Kannada) to create an even greater variety of emoji to be used. An example of a 2channel style emoji would be : ಠ_ಠ which is supposed to appear as a disapproving look.

To me, seeing the vast variety and cultural differences of emoji from around the globe really makes me believe emojis are a new way in which we express ourselves. I don’t believe it possibly to see quite so many variations and nuances from culture to culture if they were not important to us as individual beings. Personally, I like to try replicate kaomoji with my western keyboard. I do this I believe because I’m showing both that I have an interest in the Japanese culture while also noting I’m from a western society.

Perhaps I’m looking at this too philosophically but I do honestly believe there is a tie in with culture, our own personal passions and the emoji. What do you believe? Does it have something to do with cultures wanting to express themselves through 1 or 2 bit expressions? Leave a comment to discuss! Until next time, this stream is going offline and in case I do not write again until after the holidays, Merry Christmas everyone!
References:
To generate Kaomoji’s I use http://japaneseemoticons.me/

 

 

On the Topic of Emojis

On the topic of the Evolution of Storytelling

the-evolution-of-storytelling-3-728

So, recently my Digital Humanities class did a Twessay (a Twitter essay) on the evolution of storytelling in digital media. The results of our responses can be found here.

And what did I have to say on the topic? Well I said “Storytelling is changing in our digital revolution, everything is online and it opens new avenues of creativity to us all.” (a) Even after all my research has been done, I mostly stand by what I said here. Mostly I now disagree on that “everything is online” that is very much untrue, storytelling is still very much alive offline too. However, I stand that the digital medium has creative new ways for us to share our stories and expand the types of stories we can experience.

Just look at the very successful web comic, Homestuck (by Andrew Hussie) can help more readers finish your story (currently Homestuck is 6,000 pages long and unfinished). This web comic truly is a success when you look at it’s massive fan following and the kickstarter for a Homestuck Game reaching over $2 million in funding. It’s safe to say that the inclusion of digital media (such as videos, interactive games, changeable music) brought a new edge to the web comic style and was the main attraction that spear headed it’s popularity compared to the regular web comics which do not allow fans to so directly interact with the characters.

From Sean Hegarty’s Twessay “Storytelling has evolved in a certain way that it still holds the old meanings, but has evolved mostly in accessibility”. (b) This is something I agree with fully, I mean what is storytelling? Storytelling is the interactive art of using words and actions to reveal the elements and images of a story while encouraging the listener’s imagination [1].

This fact will never change about storytelling, the goal, to put vivid imagery and interesting characters into a listener or reader’s mind will always be the primary goal of storytelling but the mediums we can achieve this goal have now changed and we have more opportunities than ever. Even when we look at more recent novels, we see ways of interactivity being introduced such as in S [2] a book which split by both a section in the book which is a novel called “The Ship of Theseus” written by an unknown author and another part of the book are the hand-written notes capturing the conversations of two college students attempting to discover who the true author is, it is up to the reader how to get through S and no two people will reach the conclusion the same way. While it is a very unique concept as of right now, I would not be shocked to find more clones of this idea in the not so distant future!

Finally, we have this little gem from Luke Crowley, “People interact with stories & change them through new types of games;this interactive medium is the evolution of storytelling” (c) In video games in particular, we can be our own character (or another protagonist) and the actions we take shape the world around us. A recent example of this being executed beautifully is Until Dawn [3] where any little decision you make can literally be the difference between life and death for some characters. This is known as the Butterfly Effect system and is exclusively used in video game medium as it is irreplicable with other medium.  (it even comes with an autosave function so if you want to undo your choice later, well too bad!).

Thank you all for reading my article, perhaps I was able to introduce you to a new way that digital medium is changing storytelling around you? If so, leave a comment below! Until next time, this stream is going offline.

References :
Twessays Referenced :
Andrew Douglas (a), Sean Hegarty (b), Luke Crowley (c)

[1] What is Storytelling?http://www.storynet.org/resources/whatisstorytelling.html
[2] S (2013) – Doug Dorst and J.J. Abrams
[3] Until Dawn (2015) – Supermassive Games

 

On the topic of the Evolution of Storytelling