Recently, a video surfaced related to the development of the "Milo and Kate" concept that was introduced at the 2009 E3 conference. Milo was intended as a product for what's now called 'Kinect," the add-on hardware for the XBOX 360 game system that allows for a more natural interface with the game system. Though currently scaled back, the original concept combined the ability to recognize and interpret use motion, voice and facial recognition, and an advance in artificial intelligence (or, at least, the ability to create the illusion of artificial intelligence). The 'Kinect' system isn't quite as far reaching as promised (at least not yet), but the promise of this advance in gaming (and human-computer interaction) is still exciting. Take a look:
"Emotion Capture" - Directing Milo from John Dower on Vimeo.
This recent video explains the concept behind Milo, and in particular, the idea of "Emotion Capture." Many people looked at the Milo idea and dismissed it as uninteresting, pointless - and deceptive. Actually, by design, it was deceptive, as the interaction between user and on-screen character is really a sophisticated "smoke and mirrors" illusion. Designer Peter Molyneux admitted as such. Many people looked at the game play videos and pronounced the product dead on arrival. In fact, the full concept has never been revealed, and I'm fascinated with the somewhat unimaginative disdain many have expressed. A great deal of attention has been paid to the idea that the primary character in "Milo and Kate" is a ten year old boy. Why, some ask, would anybody be interested in interacting with a little boy? It was even suggested this was part of the reason that Microsoft killed the program. Without knowing the full concept, of course, that's pure speculation.
Like more traditional storytelling, however, it's clear that the world of Milo could be hugely effective and engaging. Imagine a thriller, or a horror based story in which "Milo" is a central figure. Imagine an interactive version of "The Sixth Sense" (I see dead people), in which the boy not only sees dead people, but hears voices as well - and you're that voice? Do you terrorize or guide the central character. Do you drive him insane, or defend him from those who would harm him? The possibilities of this sort of interactive storytelling are endless. Whether "Milo" ever sees the light of day, I look forward to the full realization of the technology.