Is AI and Augmented Reality the Future of Gaming?

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Gamers can be a demanding lot. It’s true that retro gaming maintains a certain cult appeal but we’re often looking for the next tweak, the next enhancement, the next big thing. Gaming is in a constant state of evolution and, with the global gaming industry worth $100 billion or so, there’s no shortage of investors looking to innovate, improve and be at the forefront of that next wave.

Gaming and AI

One of the areas attracting much attention in which there has been rapid progress is artificial intelligence (AI). Gamers are used to the concept of AI but in gamer speak the concept can relate to any half-baked set of subroutines that affect how a program responds to their moves. There are many potential applications beyond gaming of course, but truly intelligent AI that can learn and adapt has the potential to revolutionise games of all genres.

In its online magazine, 888poker relates how the poker AI program Libratus recently, and quite soundly, beat four top human players over a marathon 120,000 hands. Poker is not like chess. There is no ‘perfect game’ and the information that any computer program must base its moves on is always incomplete; however, Libratus was able to learn from its mistakes and consistently improved its performance over the course of the competition.

"Most game AI is designed to be exactly as intelligent as it needs to be in order to give the player a good experience," said former Sims 4 programmer Bruce Hill. “For many games, this means the AI should behave in predictable and barely intelligent ways, like the enemies in a Mario game or most first person shooters."

AI that can truly learn and adapt could open the door to far more challenging, complex and adaptive games.

The rise of augmented reality

Augmented reality (AR), which superimposes a computer-generated image on the user's view of the real world, is another area that looks set to explode - thanks to both improvements in the tech and the huge success of Pokémon Go. Niantic’s location-based game certainly wasn’t the industry’s first foray into augmented reality, however, when it was released last summer it became a genuine phenomenon. Pokémon Go generated an estimated $950 million in revenues in 2016 and kids and adults alike can be observed hunting down fictional beasts at real-life PokéStop locations all round the world. The likes of Zombies Everywhere! and Niantic’s Ingress had already seen the light of day before Pokémon Go but 2016 is still likely to be seen as AR’s Year Zero. Everyone wants to develop the next big hit, as well as the hardware on which to play it. This includes the likes of Magic Leap and Microsoft Hololens that are vying to bring AR headsets to the masses. Smartphone screens are still important however, and notable absentees Apple are widely predicted to jump into the game via the iPhone 8 camera.

Virtual reality (VR) is also looming large on the horizon but AR is already here, and along with improvements in AI, it looks set to play a major part in the future of gaming.

Augmented reality (AR), which superimposes a computer-generated image on the user's view of the real world, is another area that looks set to explode - thanks to both improvements in the tech and the huge success of Pokémon Go. Niantic’s location-based game certainly wasn’t the industry’s first foray into augmented reality, however, when it was released last summer it became a genuine phenomenon. Pokémon Go generated an estimated $950 million in revenues in 2016 and kids and adults alike can be observed hunting down fictional beasts at real-life PokéStop locations all round the world.

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