North Side Unveils Bot Colony, The World's First Conversation Video Game at GDC in San Francisco

MONTREAL, March 23 /PRNewswire/ -- North Side Inc., of Montreal, will unveil a prototype of its Bot Colony(TM) title ( www.botcolony.com ) at GDC in San Francisco on March 25 - 27 (booth 5016 NH). Bot Colony(TM) is the first game ever where the player can converse with the characters in English. The language used is completely unrestricted: the player simply speaks and the characters answer naturally using speech, asking questions, seeking clarifications or offering comments in return. During this interaction, the characters learn new concepts and facts from the player, and use them immediately in the game.

(Photo: http://www.newscom.com/cgi-bin/prnh/20090323/NY84392)

The introduction of conversation technology into games should open up gaming to people of wider demographics. The company hopes that Bot Colony will appeal to both sexes, to a wider age group, and to people from different cultures. Since in order to get through to the robots in Bot Colony one needs to express himself very clearly, the game may help players improve their English and analytical thinking.

Natural language understanding by computer is one of the formidable technical problems that has remained unsolved until now. Achieving a natural, intelligent dialogue between a person and a machine has been sometimes referred to as passing the Turing Test. North Side has worked in this area for 6 years, and though it does not claim that Bot Colony(TM) passes the Turing Test yet, it believes that Bot Colony has overcome some major obstacles in achieving a natural dialogue with machines.

North Side Inc.

North Side Inc. has been conducting R&D in natural language understanding since 2002, with a first application in virtual crewmember training (team trainers where some of the human trainees are absent, and are replaced by intelligent agents who speak on their behalf). The decision to unveil this technology through a videogame was made in 2007.

According to the company, the technology powering Bot Colony(TM) has applications that go beyond gaming: it holds the key for a radically different e-commerce experience, where a consumer will simply speak to his/her computer to buy travel and banking products, seek information, or access customer support. These applications are actually demonstrated in the game: the player has to rent a hotel room, order food in a restaurant, or buy consumer goods, all through normal conversation as if he/she was speaking with another human.

Availability

The initial release of Bot Colony(TM) game is planned for the PC/Internet platform. Bot Colony(TM) is an online game: the player's PC will run Anitron, North Side's proprietary 3D game engine, Nuance speech-to-text and Neospeech text-to-speech software. The servers running the language processing and reasoning software run on multi-core computers with tens of giga-bytes of memory each. The server massive hardware requirements limit the number of players that can be accommodated simultaneously. A paid-up subscription will be essential to add more servers and accommodate players beyond the restricted Beta program. Registration for a free, restricted Beta program will open at the Game Developers Conference in San Francisco.

Web site: http://www.northsideinc.com//




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