AI People You Should Know About, Pt. 1


I saw an article today about the future of AI in games and suchlike and I was tempted to start tweeting about it but that inevitably leads to boring arguments and isn’t very constructive. Instead, what I’m going to do is give you a list (in no particular order) of some researchers who I think are really interesting, who are important to the future of game AI, and who have interesting things to say, and most importantly who I don’t see interviewed or talked about enough. They’d all make great people to talk to for articles, features and interviews, and each one has a research portfolio that paints a cool future for games. Go check them out!

I apologise in advance if you’re listed here and I haven’t done your work justice – let me know if I can fix anything – or if you’re not listed here but we high five a lot and know each other. I’m lucky enough to know and work with a huge number of very cool people, and I will try to do more of these lists as time goes on – I couldn’t fit everyone in here!

Anne Sullivan, Josh McCoy, Mike Treanor – American University

Anne is a researcher whose work cuts across crafts, play, game AI, procedural generation and narrative (and probably more – I’m paraphrasing hugely here!). She created the Grail Framework for CRPG design, adding the play back into role-playing games, and has also done a lot of work on tools for crafting and creativity with playful elements to them – ideas which are now being developed into their own field, `computational craft’.

Mike and Josh are two of the names behind the IGF-nominated Prom Week, a new kind of game that uses ‘social physics’ that let the player solve problems using character relationships and interactions. Mike was also responsible for The Game-o-matic, a groundbreaking automatic game design tool that translated real-world concepts and relationships into playable games.

Mike, Josh and Anne are all now at American where they’re working on exciting new projects relating ideas from social science, narrative intelligence research, and their own ideas about game design. Some of the projects they’re working on (I believe unannounced right now) sound incredibly exciting, and they’re all really fascinating individuals with exciting visions of what games can be.

Gillian Smith – Northeastern University

Gillian is a procedural generation expert who pioneered a lot of ideas about procedural game design through her PhD, including rhythm-based level design with Tanagra and interactive procedural generation in Endless Web, and is now continuing this work as an assistant professor at Northeastern. Gillian is also working with Anne Sullivan (mentioned above) developing ideas related to computational craft – they have some terrific projects that bring all these ideas together, like the first {Craft, Game} Play workshop at the FDG games conference recently.

Gillian’s also undertaking amazing projects analysing the history and future of procedural generation. She’s done a lot of research on where the field has been, and a lot of work on where it might go next – stuff that goes beyond just more dungeons. You can catch her 2014 PROCJAM talk here.

Mikhail Jacob – Georgia Institute of Technology

Mikhail is a PhD student at Georgia Tech, who is working at the delicate intersection of games research, computational creativity, and expressive intelligence. Mikhail’s work includes the Viewpoints AI system, which uses technology like the Kinect to build complex interactive systems that can understand gestures and interact with players through dance and similar activities. Viewpoints develops ideas like what it means to collaborate with AI, or what improvisation means for software, and generally point to very interesting applications and new avenues for game AI to explore.

Mirjam Eladhari – Otter Play

Mirjam is currently on sabbatical from games research, but has an amazing history of work both in the games industry and academia. She’s currently focused on Otter Play, her indie efforts which include making games and conducting research, often on the same project! Mirjam’s past work includes an exploration of how NPCs can be given autonomy in a game system and how that changes the way we design player experience and narrative. She has a unique approach to research and game development, with an amazing artistic flair that crops up all over the place. Her work with Otter Play is definitely worth keeping an eye on.

Jonathan Tremblay – McGill University

Jon is a PhD student who always has something new he’s been working on. His work covers a lot of different areas, often on problems you don’t see come up a lot in research. He presented a tool which analyses stealth games using techniques inspired by how robots navigate spaces, for example, and then built a level to generate and tweak stealth level designs. There’s a lot of really fresh and exciting research coming out of McGill, and Jon is a good example of it!

Mark Nelson – Anadrome Research

Mark has worked at UC Santa Cruz, Georgia Tech and ITU Copenhagen, which is a pretty impressive tour of games research institutions, and did some really crucial foundational work in automated game design. He’s been involved in research into the procedural generation of just about everything, and also knows a huge amount about the history of technology and computer science. He recently set up his own company, Anadrome Research, to pursue some of these interests more deeply.

These are all really interesting people, experts in different areas of games and AI research, and able to tell stories that really haven’t been told much before. They’re all working on fresh and interesting projects, and I really, really recommend checking them out and getting in touch with them.

2 thoughts on “AI People You Should Know About, Pt. 1

  1. Have I ever told you what a lovely human being you are? Thank you for including me but also for pointing out some interesting research I didn’t know about! 😀

  2. Pingback: AR Diary: October

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