Milo… a creepy kinda coolness.

16 Jul

Years ago, one of the first games I had with AI in it was something called “Racter” which was a text based AI that learned from you, and in a very funny sense would remember things you’d said and add them into the conversation – and yes, I did have to compile it… and yes I did use a Z80 processor at the time, and (sighs) yes 64k was a lot of memory for a computer at the time.    Now, getting back to what this is about…

Although Racter was just a silly AI engine that sounded like Eliza on a drunken binge, it was pretty revolutionary.  The technology frankly is the basis, the genesis if you will, for a lot of our better gaming characters and even daily use software of today.   Now, Racter and Eliza have long since gone to the dusty shelves of computer lore to be long since forgotten as if they never existed.  Let’s face it you don’t get much more basic than they are, and there’s only so much you can do with the concept right??   And so, now we get to the old hat thing of “nothing stored ever goes unused…” in computer science.

Meet Milo.  He’s a 3D construct that the more you talk, interact and play with him… the more human he becomes.

Milo Kinect Demo Video–Interview with Creator


And if that doesn’t creep you out – nothing will.  Lets face it, a pasty faced computer program that looks you right in the eye, and talks to you, learning from you as you talk is creepy by anyones definition.

And… just in case you’re having visions of “Skynet”, “Colossus”, and a plethora of other really bad AI systems which take over the world after becoming sentient… we have the following statement, which I am offering up as one of the worst PR endorsements of any AI …

"His mind is based in the cloud," he told the audience. "As millions of people use it, Milo will get smarter."

Just for the record, I’m gonna say this is a 9.5 on the creepy but kinda cool meter.  It’s not a giant robot built from a car you can drive around with your buddies and knock over buildings… but then, MegasXLR never had the potential to get smarter than me and delete my video collection for being of ‘limited human intelligence’.

For those who wonder where we’re going with all this technology the direction is not as far as the scary sci-fi movies, an AI such as this will never get self-aware.  As the creator of it points out, this isn’t really true “AI” by many peoples definitions.  Milo uses a series of tricks to approximate a behavior we associate with that level of AI.    Will future versions get there?  Sure it will.  But not for a long time.  And only if we want it to.  Lets face it, most of the people playing Call of Duty and Halo are not going to get all fanboy at the concept of this “game”.


Which is most likely why you won’t see Milo ever on the shelves at your local best buy.

So… where will we see him?  Will we ever see him?  Sure.  He’ll excel as a “friend”, and is the very basics of what may become computer based majordomos, butlers, and even the operating system interface itself.  (For those of you who play Halo… think Cortana.)    This is, as they say, only the beginning.    It’s a computer – in your living room, that’s always on, that knows what you watched last night you liked, so maybe it should find more videos like that, and that you like Def Lepard and not Van Halen (and there is a difference and not because of the band names but because of how you react to them).  We’re looking at a computer in your house that knows what you like – not because you told it, but because you liked it.

Think… SARA on the TV Series Eureka – and you’re getting there.  But why does it have to be just a “house” – why can’t we take our SARA with us?  Truth is – we can.  We can make it/him/her an SIM that follows us around.  Like a magic genie that helps us shop, remembers that we need to pick up the kids for Soccer (and that we agreed to bring snacks), oh… and most importantly… that person from the kids school you keep deleting the email invites to  the Parents Against Video Games?  He’s 3 aisles over in the store your at getting petitions signed… your best route to avoid him is…

That’s what we have in mind as users.

This is not what Milo’s creator has in mind, at least not yet.  That’s light years away from what he had in mind when he created this. 

Milo, to him, is a story telling game using a virtual boy who befriends you (in a very literal sense) over the period of the game.  Essentially this is awesome for kids, who uh, don’t have any friends.  And I can actually see a niche market there – having a computer friend isn’t new.  In fact computer pets were all the rage from Tamagotchi’s to Pets.   But they aren’t human friends… and although we love to “teach” computers and computer pets things… that’s control over them.  Human friends we don’t expect to be able to control – computer friends we do.  We’ll need to see if Milo’s growth includes this lesson, because it will most likely be included in future operating systems. 

We expect our computers of the future to be able to meet our needs… not use us as batteries to power the virtual world they’ve created to enslave us.


For more info on Milo check out…

CNN:  Microsoft demos ‘Milo’ game at TED Global

BBC: ‘Virtual human’ Milo comes out to play at TED in Oxford

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Posted by on July 16, 2010 in Uncategorized


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