Fable Studio has announced two new conversational AI virtual beings, or artificial people. Their names are Charlie and Beck, and they will be able to hold conversations as if they were real people.
The new characters are a blend of storytelling and artificial intelligence, a marriage that Fable is pioneering in the belief that virtual beings will become a huge market as people seek companionship and entertainment during the tough climate of the pandemic.
CEO Edward Saatchi believes that virtual beings are the start of something big. He organizes the Virtual Beings Summit, and this summer he noted that virtual beings companies — from Genies to AI Foundation — have raised more than $320 million.
Fable Studio started as a virtual reality entertainment company, and it won an Emmy Award for its Wolves in the Walls virtual reality project. But the company has pivoted beyond VR and focused on virtual beings, such as Lucy, the 8-year-old girl who was the studio’s first next-generation AI character. Now Fable is pulling Lucy out of VR and letting people talk to her via the web, and the company has a 7,000-person wait list after launching Lucy in alpha testing last month.
Such characters are stepping stones to the metaverse, the universe of virtual worlds that are all interconnected, like in novels such as Snow Crash and Ready Player One. We’re holding a conference on the subject, GamesBeat: Into the Metaverse event on January 27, and Saatchi will be a speaker at it.
And now Lucy is being joined by Charlie and Beck. You can sign up to make friends with them at fable-studio.com. The characters are powered by the Fable Wizard, an AI tool to bring characters to life through visuals, dialogue, voice, and animation.
Saatchi said that in the six weeks since launching Lucy’s alpha, the company has received interest from seven billion-dollar intellectual property companies to use the Wizard to create virtual beings from their characters. And it has a deal in the works to co-create a virtual being with a well-known influencer.
Beck and Charlie
Beck is a world-class athlete who is scheduled to go to the Tokyo Olympics 2021 to represent Canada on the rowing team. She trained for four years to get ready for Tokyo, only to be disappointed with postponement due to the pandemic. She’s anxious about her dreams being put on hold in the face of massive uncertainty. Her storyline matches reality, while Lucy was stuck in 1988, the year that her story takes place in Neil Gaiman’s Wolves in the Walls book.
Charlie is more of an introvert. She is a French musician and poet living in Paris and finding her voice. She studied art history.
“We’re really excited to introduce these characters,” Fable creative director Jessica Shamash said in an interview. “We’ve been working on them for quite some time now. And we have actually a few more characters, but these are the first that we wanted to introduce. We wanted to build these very intentional characters that people are inspired by and look up to, people that are characters that our audiences kind of want to be friends with, and want to interact with. Charlie is this timeless character, this timeless French poet, who is turning her poetry into music. She embodies this Audrey Hepburn, Amélie, and even Bob Dylan in some ways.”
You may be able to get to know Charlie more through a friend of hers.
“She needs to do to express herself. And it’s a very interesting dynamic of having someone who has that need, but is also very shy and reserved in some ways,” Saatchi said. “We’re exploring how her childhood friend might be documenting her and wanting to show her through his lens and how he sees her vulnerabilities.”
People will be able to hold conversations with Beck and Charlie, as they have been designed to tap AI tech. As with Lucy, Fable Studio has blended human-written dialogue with AI responses available through GPT3 technology, a language model that is in its infancy. But the conversations can be much different because they’re adults, Saatchi said.
“Once you enter adulthood, you have different masks,” Saatchi said. “You have a professional self, you have a family self, you have a friend. And in the case of Beck and Charlie, they both have a kind of public self.”
The goal is to make virtual beings are just like us. You can text with them, talk, video chat, play games together — follow them, listen to their music, share interests. And Saatchi said they will remember you. Much of the writing by the humans is about taking the conversations down a “golden path,” or a rewarding story, Saatchi said.
Right now, you don’t have an app. You can communicate with them via text messages, direct-message them on social media, or talk on the phone or in a video chat. And soon you may be able to join friends in metaverses like Roblox or Fortnite.
“It’s really important that we find these characters in the places that they would be,” Saatchi said. “So for Beck, because she’s an athlete, she would use Strava, for example, which is, you know, something that athletes use to record their workouts. So you could passively watch her life as she trains every day. Another aspect of her life could be represented on Instagram or TikTok. You’re going to find these characters where it’s appropriate.”
The challenge for human writers is that the possibilities for conversational directions are vast, and the writers can’t possibly cover them all. That’s where the AI tech — such as GPT-3 — and Fable’s own AI team comes in.
“What the APIs in various forums give us access to is the ability to improvise,” Saatchi said. “And so our AI team then focuses on how do we bound or contain the AI so that it doesn’t know everything about the internet, so that it is plausibly behaving as though this character has a limited knowledge about the world, about itself, and about its relationship to you. And in that way, we then are creating a subset of tools to keep the AI contained and pointed in the right direction at any given moment.”
“GPT-3 has an amazing ability to just hold a compelling conversation, a believable conversation,” Saatchi said. “But it doesn’t have a sense of memory. After four or five turns of the conversation, it may ask you a very similar question that we’ve already answered, which would feel disappointing, and then you would feel that you’re not being seen. And then you’ve suddenly broken intimacy, or you’ve created an ‘uncanny valley’ of memory.”
The key to making the characters seem real is that they have to be able to remember you in a way that seems realistic.
“These personality types are important, but so are the memories that we’re developing to understand who you are and what your secrets are, and what your worries are,” Saatchi said. “I hope that we can be a kind of positive angel.”
Source: VentureBeatRelated posts: