Reviews, Views and Adventures in Content Creation

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Siri and Milo, Sitting in a Tree

Ever since Siri, the voice recognition/voice synthesis AI device on the iPhone 4s came out, I've been thinking about Milo.

Here's Apple's own demo of Siri - word is that it lives up to expectations.

Milo [see my most recent post, here], you may recall, was a game concept that Peter Molyneux and Lionhead Studios introduced for the Xbox 360's Kinect project.  It would have allowed the user to interact with the main character in the game, and so impact his actions as the plot unfolded.  The demo seemed extraordinary - but unfortunately, the gamed seemed so much vaporware.

But, what a concept!

Siri, which so far is only available on the new iPhone, is a voice recognition and response system that gain knowledge and sophistication now only from the user - but the entire universe of users.  It has, so far, proven to correctly respond to voice inquiries and respond in a natural nearly-human cadence.

When the Milo project was revealed, just two years ago, it's capabilities as described were similar in concept - and would have created a spectacular flagship game for Xbox Kinect add-on, which aims to allow gaming to interact more naturally with the user - through body movement and, it was said, voice synthesis.

It never happened.

Details of the game concept for Milo were sketchy.  It involved an English boy transplanted with him parents to America, where, it seems, he has trouble fitting in.  He also has a faithful dog, Kate, that accompanies him on the (dark?) adventures.

Poor Milo was derided, of course.  The fact that the main character was a little boy led to endless insinuations by doubtful gamers that he would be a plaything for all sorts of bizarre individuals. 

Now that Siri has proved the concept, imagine if that little boy was Damien Thorn, the little boy from "The Omen," or Freddy Krueger from the "Nightmare on Elm Street" movies - or the terrifying Hannibal Lector from "Silence of the Lambs."  What if you were to interact directly with these characters as you worked your way through the game.  Such interaction, I think, could bring a new level of terror separate and apart from any motion picture or gaming experience.  Interacting with Hannibal Lector is one thing - talking directly to him as Jodie Foster's character is another.

With the sophistication and crowd-developed knowledge base of Siri,  it's now conceivable to create fully immersive virtual reality environments.  What just recently was pure science fiction is clearly within reach.  "Virtual Reality," in fact, has been stuck in a sort of stasis for a while as interactive technology has caught up public expectations.

I used to darken the lights with a friend's son and play the early computer game, "Alone in the Dark," which involved wondering through a vast mansion and avoiding all sorts of perils. It was frightening - but imagine actually responding to that ghostly voice, or having to verbally answer a question correctly at the peril of "death." 

Imagine being in the middle of a zombie apocalypse - or a civil war battlefield - or immersing yourself with the fictional culture of the alien world of Avatar. Even better - imagine meeting and interacting directly with your favorite hero (we'll leave the ethical challenges of re-creating and interpreting a historical person or event for another discussion). 

It's astounding that Microsoft and Lionhead killed the Milo project, particularly when critical pieces of the necessary tech are now real and tangible.

I haven't yet seen any indication that the tech behind "Siri" is being developed for game systems - but Apple being what it is, one wonders if there's a visionary somewhere within the company working to redefine gaming as we know it.  They've done it with so much other tech, so who knows...


  1. If Siri could cook and clean my life would be even easier. LOL

  2. The connection of Milo to Siri is one that is rare on the Internet. But it is IMO pure genius. I think that Milo was pulled back into the development house at Microsoft.