A VR film / sport with AI characters may be totally different each time it’s considered / performed


Gagliano had already won the first Emmy for a VR experience in 2015. Now he and producer David Oppenheim, who works for the National Film Board of Canada, are experimenting with what they call a dynamic film of storytelling. “We see Agence as a kind of dynamic silent film,” says Oppenheim. "It's a start, not a blockbuster."

Agence debuted at the Venice International Film Festival last month and was released this week to watch / play on Steam, an online video game platform. The basic plot revolves around a group of creatures and their appetites for a mysterious plant that appears on their planet: can they control their desires or will they destabilize the planet and go into extinction? Survivors ascend to another world. After several ascents there is a secret ending, says Oppenheim.

Gagliano and Oppenheim want viewers to have the opportunity to sit back and watch a story unfold, with the AI ​​characters on their own, or to get involved and change the action on the fly. There's a wide range of interactivity, says Gagliano: "A lot of interactive films have decision-making moments where you can branch the narrative, but I wanted to create something that you can use to transform the story at any time."

A certain degree of interactivity results from the selection of the type AI, which controls the individual characters. You can use a rule-based AI that guides the character using simple heuristics. If that happens, do this. Then you can turn others into reinforcement learning agents, trained to seek out rewards as they wish, e.g. B. Fighting for a bite of the fruit. Characters who follow the rules stick closer to Gagliano's direction. RL agents cause chaos.

But you can also lean against it. Using VR controls or a gamepad, you can grab and move characters, plant more giant flowers, and help balance the planet. The characters carry on with their business around you, seeking their rewards as best they can.

The film sparked a certain interest in Venice, says Oppenheim: “A lot of people are looking for this mix of history and interactivity. Bringing AI into the mix was something people responded very well to. "

Gagliano's mother likes it too. When he showed her, she spent all the time ending fights between the creatures. "She said," You behave, you go back here and play well, "he says." That was a story I didn't expect. "

But the people expecting a game got a cooler reaction. "Players tend to treat it as a puzzle," says Oppenheim. And the movie's short running time and lack of challenge have put some online reviewers off.

Nevertheless, the two agencies see it as a work in progress. They want to work with other AI developers to give their characters different desires that would lead to different stories. In the long run, they think they could use AI to generate all parts of a movie, from character behavior to dialogue to entire environments. It could create surprising, dreamlike experiences for all of us, says Oppenheim.


Steven Gregory