Inquiring minds want to know: What is an AI character?

Inworld Team

September 29, 2022

What is an ai character girl

In the future, your day might start when you sit through a corporate training session led by an intelligent – and funny – AI who teaches you how to avoid phishing attacks in a way that doesn’t make you feel like you’re about to nod off. 

Later, after work, you’ll play the latest hit game where you have to convince a town of intelligent non-playable characters (NPCs) to unite with you against the advancing zombie hoards. And before the day is done? You’ll chat with a sneaker company’s brand ambassador who doesn’t just help you pick out the right pair of shoes – but also has encyclopedic knowledge about the history of hip hop. 

The future of gaming, entertainment, the metaverse, learning, and immersive brand experiences is set to become a whole lot more fun! And that’s thanks to AI characters. 

What is an AI character? 

An image of a modern Queen of Hearts character talking to a gamer who is wearing a VR headset

Create villains (and heroes) you can truly interact with

An AI character is a character that’s created using artificial intelligence technologies. These can include natural language processing models, machine vision, speech-to-text, and other computer models. Together, they work to mimic the dynamic and social nature of human interactions. 

  • AI characters can be programmed to have their own unique personalities, emotional states, knowledge, dialogue style, goals, and actions. 
  • AI characters are lifelike, engaging, and expressive. And they don’t even have to be human. Want to talk with a platypus named Pete? You can create an AI character for that! AI characters can take any shape or form you imagine. They can be humans, creatures, beings, or even look like your pet.
  • With AI characters, you aren’t limited to just talking to them – although they’ll talk to you for hours if you want. AI characters allow you to interact with them in virtual worlds. 

Imagine characters with body language, gestures, and speech to match their personalities. Characters that can see what you’re doing and comment on it. Characters who have dynamic goals and agency – and who can even remember you. Characters who might even get angry when you move one of their things in a video game and run after you to try to get it back.  

Why are AI characters the next big thing?

The most important thing to know about AI characters is that they're the future. And no. We’re not just saying that because we’re an AI character company. Our founders created an AI character generator because they could see where the tech (and the gaming industry!) was headed. 

So, where will you be seeing AI characters? 

  • They’re about to be added to the video games you love as NPCs you can talk to or big bosses you can fight. 
  • You’ll find them populating the metaverse as brand ambassadors there to help you pick out digital sneakers or as onboarding agents ready to teach you how the virtual world works. 
  • Entertainment companies will advertise movies by holding interactive AMAs with your favorite digital character. 
  • Fans might even use AI characters to power fanfiction. 
  • You might even someday show up to a training session at your job or at school only to find that an AI character is your teacher for the day!

AI characters will make all sorts of media and experiences more interactive and immersive. In those scenarios we opened this article with, for example, you’ll love learning from a character all of the answers to your phishing questions at her fingertips. 

When it comes to the zombies, you’ll (unfortunately) fail the first three times at convincing the town of intelligent NPCs to unite with you and, as a result, have your brains eaten. But don’t worry! Your brains will remain intact on the fourth go. Also, you might just become the world’s second leading expert on hip hop (and sneakers). Or, at least, impress your friends with your knowledge!

How do AI characters work? 

A screenshot of the Inworld AI studio showing someone creating an AI character. There is a UI element that shows the ability to toggle between sadness and joy, anger and fear, disgust and trust, anticipation and surprise

With the Inworld Studio, anyone can easily create an AI character

There’s a saying that any sufficiently advanced piece of technology is like magic. We like to think AI characters fit into that category. But they’re also code and neural networks and VERY careful programming to make sure they’re safe for users – and don’t become the main ‘character’ of Twitter with an inappropriate rant. 

What AI characters aren’t is chatbots. Chatbots are just text and, sometimes, speech. AI characters are much more than that. Because human beings are more than that!

At Inworld, for example, we use over 20 machine learning models that work together to generate different aspects of our characters. Characters you can’t just talk to – but who can interact with you dynamically in virtual worlds. And you can design your characters any way you want. Inworld just powers your character’s dialogue and brains–you can incorporate any avatar or visual design you want. 2D, 3D, anyD! We even have tutorials for using Inworld with Unity and Unreal, two popular game engines.

We break down what our characters can do into three categories: 

Cognition

These are all the things that make up who a person is. It’s how quick they are to laughter – or anger. Also, things like their formative experiences, memories, and deepest desires. With virtual characters, you can create a grumpy elf from a magical realm whose only goal in life is to eat as much ice cream as possible – or a modern twenty-something who loves memes and helping others. 

  • Personality
  • Background
  • Memory
  • Goals 
  • Emotions

Perception

It’s no fun to interact with someone who can’t see what’s happening right in front of their eyes! Inworld’s perception features help AI characters understand and react to what’s happening when you’re interacting with them over text, voice, and in virtual worlds. They can see the people they’re interacting with – and objects in the virtual world. 

They can even have a behavior triggered when an event happens. For example, a merchant can have an action programmed when they perceive a stranger entering their store.  

  • Audio
  • Visual
  • Event triggers
  • Object interaction
  • Haptic input
  • Progress signals

Behavior

The best part of AI characters is that they have dynamic and responsive behaviors! Are they mad? They’ll look like it from their body language. Do they have an urgent task to complete? They’re on it! Behavior attributes work closely with perception features so the characters respond in real-time to you or things happening in a virtual world. 

  • Speech
  • Gestures
  • Object interaction
  • Body language
  • Movement
  • Event triggers

AI character use cases

A black woman avatar of an AI character. She is smiling, dressed stylishly and gesturing with her hands excitedly

Use  cases for AI characters are only limited by your imagination!

We’ve given you a few hints of how AI characters might be used in the future but now it’s time to layout all of their key use cases. And we’re going to go at this Fast and Furious: Bullet Point Style! 

AI characters and video games

  • Imagine NPCs who won’t just give canned responses based on pre-written dialogue trees – but who have dynamic conversations. 
  • NPCs with minds of their own have the potential to revolutionize game play – opening up new possibilities in game mechanics. 
  • Games need great onboarding agents – an AI character is up for that job! 
  • Ensure consistent game play quality! Online games can populate their worlds with intelligent NPC players when there are low concurrent users. 

AI characters and the metaverse

  • Imagine a future where metaverse platforms allow modders to create or import their own AI NPCs to build their own custom experience. 
  • Help users get settled in a metaverse world! AI characters are great for onboarding and giving an engaging tour. 
  • Brands want to be in the metaverse – but often don’t know the best way to engage. AI character brand ambassadors are perfect for that! 
  • AI characters also allow metaverse companies to populate their worlds with the most interesting cast of characters. An orc with an extreme fear of swords is coming for you! 

AI characters and brands

  • Imagine much loved brand mascots coming to life and interacting with customers
  • Create sales associates, customer service reps, and products experts with customized brand personalities. 
  • Extend successful ad campaigns into digital experiences. 
  • Leverage brand ambassadors to build community in the metaverse and other digital worlds. 
  • Create virtual influencers and super fans that are truly capable of interaction. 

AI characters and entertainment

  • Imagine the potential of interactive digital experiences with your favorite characters. 
  • Entertainment companies will soon be designing new interactive storytelling experiences and events with AI characters. 
  • Movie trailers and promotions are about to be revamped with AI characters. They’ll offer more engaging and captivating experiences –  and will get larger audiences into the theater.  

AI characters and you

  • Oh, yeah. We didn’t tell you? You can easily create your own AI virtual characters. In minutes. With our no-code platform, you just fill in some text boxes and toggle some buttons. You can create your next best friend, a talking ferret named Buffy, a super smart tutor to help with your homework, a historical figure you’ve always wanted to chat with, or your own version of your favorite character. 
  • Are you a modder or like to experiment with tech? You can create cool digital experiences yourself and export your AI characters into avatar programs or game engines. The possibilities are only limited by your imagination. 

Will AI characters take over the world? 

An image of a robot AI character speaking in a post-apocalyptic video game

An AI character who is (very much) not about to take over the world

Yes and no. Yes, AI characters can be cast in video games as evil geniuses or dark lords intent on taking over the world. And if you lose, they might succeed at it… in the world of the video game. 

But no. AI characters are not about to take over the world. They simulate human emotions, goals, and experiences through the magic of programming and neural networks. You can change their personalities in seconds by toggling an emotions button. Voila! That curmudgeon neighbor you just created? He’s suddenly the sweetest person you’ve ever met. That’s not at all how sentient overlords work!   

A ‘character’ is actually a great way to talk about AI. Computer models are simulating what a human being or an alien or a red fox named Freckles would say and do. They’re just playing a role. 

But what’s so remarkable (and what makes people often believe that they’re sentient) is that they do it in a fun and winningly human way. It’s exciting watching their performance! It feels just like you’re talking to another human. Or, you know, just like you’re talking to an anthropomorphized prairie dog named Buster whose only dream is to be a movie star. 

Takeaways

Here’s what we want you to takeaway from this post: 

  1. AI characters are extremely cool. They’re also the future! 
  2. You might, one day, meet an AI character who keeps you from having your brains eaten by zombies while playing the latest video game.
  3. Or helps you buy sneakers at your favorite store in the metaverse. 
  4. You can also create your own AI character -- and you should try it, it’s really fun. 
  5. Especially if say… you could do it on a no-code platform in just a few minutes. Oh, wait. We built a platform just like that! How convenient. Here’s the link to check it out. 
  6. Please share your character in our Discord or on Twitter when you do -- and tag us, of course! 

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