By Gniewko93 [CC BY-SA 4.0] via Wikimedia Commons
Game developers were researching about AI well before it actually became a trend in the tech industry. However, but they have not had much incentive in order to share their work with the academic world. After all, it is a competitive advantage. Ubisoft, however, is attempting to look for a happy middle ground. The company recently established La Forge, an AI research wing, which intends to harmonise research for both science and gaming. The new section has academics and employees of Ubisoft working together on projects that will ideally improve gaming and result to real-world breakthroughs that can be published by scientists.
As one example, Ubisoft cites its work on making a small-scale version of the San Francisco Bay Area for Watch Dogs 2. The company produced AI-guided pedestrians and cars to go through a realistic urban environment, and that is potentially ideal for research on self-driving cars — scientists could utilise the technology of Watch Dogs in order to test autonomous driving in challenging situations (like crowds) without the need of putting real cars on the road. At the same time, AI designs for real cars could drive to better in-game AI.
Other works of the company include AI that moves and walks more realistically (which are helpful for prosthetics and robots) and detecting toxic behaviour in online communities.
La Forge is still new, so it is hard to know whether or not it will keep both sides interested. If Ubisoft maintains its better AI breakthroughs to itself, academics might easily lose interest. Likewise, Ubi may jump ship if the research teams do not produce enough relevant breakthroughs. However, if it pans out, this could be the key to ending some of the isolation in the development of AI.