Computer Science

Computer Science Seminar: Josh McCoy

Computer Science Seminar: Josh McCoy from American University

Host: Michael Neff

When: Wednesday, March 8th at 3:10pm

Where: 1131 Kemper Hall

TITLE: All the World’s a Stage: Creating New Interactive Experiences with Playable Models

A goal of many AI researchers, experience designers, and game developers is the realization of the Holodeck, a fully-realized virtual world replete with human-like characters in which the player can participate in stories via fully embodied interaction. Progress toward this ideal is uneven as can be witnessed in our most sophisticated interactive experiences: video games. This uneven progress has left our best and most beautifully-rendered games with stories that are brittle and shallow outside of a small range of pre-design sequences.
A primary cause is that innovation video games has been largely driven by improvements in graphics technology and our ability to model physical spaces. This has resulted in the slow exploration of other areas of game design such as interactive narratives and social story worlds. Experiences featuring complex story-driven gameplay are rare because we lack playable models of these design areas. Unlike graphics and physics simulations with their common language of mathematics, models of social interaction and storytelling have no such implementations. One solution to these problems is the creation computational models based on ideas from the social sciences and humanities that enable a level of play akin to physics systems for other domains.
This computational model approach is one of several key challenges of the goal of more playable virtual worlds. This presentation features these key challenges and the current state of my research agenda in this area. Included are the use of a computational model of social interaction in the game Prom Week that enables a new level of playability in story-driven games where player choice has true and lasting impact on the story world; the application of this technology to fully-embodied training simulations for use with peacekeeping forces; support for realism in background characters; using social science and the humanities as the basis for knowledge representation in AI systems; authoring tools and methodologies for building complex story worlds; and exploring new modes of input for playable stories.
Josh is a game developer, computer scientist and cross-disciplinary researcher whose work lies at the confluence of game technology, social science, artificial intelligence and design. His goal is to create playable experiences that communicate to broad audiences and critically address the challenges present in our society while expanding the boundaries of technology. The most recent products of his research involve combining artificial intelligence techniques with social science to create meaningful, responsive and socially engaging game experiences.
His key works includes the experimental and award-winning game Prom Week that enables a new level of social interaction between characters via an artificial intelligence system that leverages social science to make social behavior playable. Featured in a DARPA-funded project, his work was used to enable trainees to engage socially responsive characters with full-bodied interaction for the purpose of teaching good stranger behavior to soldiers in foreign lands. Josh’s complimentary focuses have been on improving dialogue with characters, threading more complex reasoning through multiple game systems, authoring methods and tools for creating complex narrative worlds, assessment and learning through game systems, and exploring interface modes ranging from fully-embodied interaction to controlling a game with a loom.

1131 Kemper Hall

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