Google recently held it's 2018 I/O and during the keynote it unveiled a slew of new software and services as well as updates to many of their current offerings, but the one that caught my eye the most was the announcement of Google Duplex. I am very interested to see what Duplex brings to the table as for what it actually is, a much more "intelligent" version of the Google Assistant that we currently have on our phones and Google Homes, but it also got me thinking of what the future of games and VR games can be with this level of tech. If you're not familiar with Duplex, then watch the embedded video below which should take you directly to the point when they talk about it, but if not, then jump ahead to 35:10.
So, what does a smarter version of Google Assistant that can call call restaurants and hair salons have to do with gaming? Well, right now and for the next few years, nothing, sadly. I gotta say, it scared me a little bit when I first watched the keynote. The thought of talking to a machine and not knowing that I am not actually talking to a human, that's a little deceiving. In video games, specifically RPGs and their many sub-genres, we carry out conversations all the time, though always through text/dialogue selections. So now you're probably thinking about some similar things I'm thinking of.
One of the things I love in VR co-op games is that, even though I'm on Discord for voice chat with my friends, I can respond to their simple yes or no questions by just nodding my head or even giving a thumbs up or down with my hands. It's just so cool to respond in a game via a non-traditional method that I've never been able to do in a game before. Since then, the idea of a single player VR game that let's me nod to an NPC to respond to their questions. Now, after I've seen this video of Google Duplex, I have a whole new dream.
Now imagine a game with heavy dialogue like Mass Effect, or games that have been ported to VR like Skyrim and Fallout 4, but these games now have Google Duplex levels of AI for all of their NPCs. They have their usual goals that the developers have programmed them to have, but beyond that, their interactions with you the player are driven by their new AI and are driven by voice. The potential scenarios are almost endless and I could write hundreds of more paragraphs providing potential events that unfold, but instead, I will end this blog post with just one.
Think about a game like World of Warcraft, an MMO. A Massively Multi-player Online game filled with hundreds and thousands of players in each instance and server, as well as that many NPCs. Unlike WoW though, you have no clue if each person you talk to is a human on their mouse and keyboard somewhere around the world or just a series of 1s and 0s that have just passed the Turing test.