AI Sportswriters brewing coffee 1890s style

This months WIRED magazine, which I insist on receiving by mail, had some great articles.  I also read books made out of paper, so if you are Generation Y or later you may just want to go to WIRED website and read these articles for free.

Anyway, onto my WIRED roundup with: Fewer Voters, Better Elections by Joshua Darvis.  Scrap the one vote per person system and run it like clinical trials where 100,000 people are randomly selected to vote.  This is certainly one way to implement voting reform… Personally, I think it would be interesting to have a different representative system.  Currently, congressional representatives in the U.S. are elected based on a geographical area, with the idea being that particular elected official accurately represents his or her

Almost All the Wired Magazines Ever Published
I don’t consider myself a hoarder, but I do keep my WIREDs.  This is not my collection, but maybe one day…(Photo credit from flickr: outtacontext)

constituents based on location.  But what about if we had representatives based on profession?  I feel that I agree with more software engineers than I do my neighbors.  Passing thought experiments for sure as I doubt any reform is up-and-coming in the voting arena.

In a short product review, apparently the Bodum Bistro 11001 Coffeemaker is the thing to get these days.  Me, I’ve switched to a french press.  Mainly out of necessity since in my current living arrangement, I do not have a counter.  Essentially coffee makers are expensive heating elements.  They look nice, but basically they drip water and then keep it hot.  So, $250 seems a bit steep for me when there are cheaper ways to heat water.  I also use a burr grinder and keep my coffee in a mason jar.  I’m suddenly realizing I’m living in the 1890s, or in Portland.

Lastly, Steven Levy, of Hackers fame, writes of rise of AI in sports reporting in the Rise of the Robot Reporter.  As I learned from my Game AI class last quarter, there is a lot of active research in AI generated narrative (stories).  In the game world, this allows games like Skyrim to have unlimited quests and to be never-ending (story! sorry… couldn’t resist. Where are the actors in that movie now?!).  The idea with the robo-reporter is that for sports stories, which are very data-centric, the AI would generate the post-game article.  Once the AI is aware of the rules of the game, it would then know what plays were pivotal and be able to detect the turning point of the game.  The story would then be written prior to the teams shaking hands.

Narrative generation is not yet human-quality, so there is no near-term fear that robots will take over sports journalist jobs.  However it provides a great starting point for writing the article.  But what I find more interesting is its applicability into video games.  Imagine an online game, I’m thinking a MMORPG type, where battles won and lost are documented by in-game newspapers, written by AIs.  Did you just make the leader board?  You can read a detailed article about it in the Daily Paper.  This could even be provided as paid downloadable content.  Everybody has a newspaper from the day they were born, but how about a copy of paper from Skyrim on that day?

Now, if I could only find a way to get my hands on the new german WIRED. Maybe when I go to Germany in June I’ll have to hunt down a copy…

Now AIs have all the fun: they play and create the game!

A new AI system, called Angelina is extending procedural content generation to create an entire video game. As part of Michael Cook’s PhD, from Imperial College of London, he developed Angelina, which randomly creates the level design, the enemies, the enemy movements and combat tactics, and the power-ups.

Ok, not everything is generated right now. The music and graphics are human-made, but procedural generated techniques for generating music and graphics do exist. As the New Scientist article hints, what’s to stop an artist from using Angelina for pushing out a new game every 12 hours and posting it to the App Store… A game generated from

Bill Gosper's Glider Gun in action—a variation...
Video Games beget Video Games via Wikipedia

Angelina is available online to play.  It’s pretty impressive.  It’s no Half-Life, but remember this was automatically generated!  Now, if there was a video game that created video games, we’d have a practical example of a self-reproducing machine besides Conway’s Game of Life.

And then there is this video, by Quantic Dream that primarily shows the improvements in near-human CG animation. It’s stunning visually, but it’s also a gripping vignette. Showing the singularity moment when AIs become self-aware. When this happens, I think they will make more than scrolling 8-bit games!

Lastly, I found an interesting paper on Automatic Quest Generation. In this paper, Jonathon Doran and Ian Parberry survey 3000 quests from various online games like World of Warcraft and categorize the type of quest. They then go own to create a set of rules (a grammar for those CS-types reading) to produce the quest procedurally. Those quests can get boring fast, and I’m not surprised to find out that most have the form:

    • 〈 goto 〉 kill | i.e. Goto Place X, kill thing Y
    • 〈 goto 〉 〈 get 〉 give | i.e. Goto Place X, get magic potion Y, give it to NPC Z.

At some point while playing WoW (a few years ago…), I stopped reading the actual quest description (i.e. the story) just to see the lists of tasks I had to accomplish.  It was at that point that I also stopped finding the game fun and stopped playing.  So if designers focus on a good main story, they can offload small side quests to the AI.  After reading this paper and watching associated video, I think I’m going to incorporate a subset of their grammar into my game project, and combine it with some player modeling. I can’t give away too much to my potential test subjects, after all, there will be cake.