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Driving Itself

Ian Davis talks about artificial intelligence in video games

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Click here to watch Ian Davis on BUniverse.

Ian Davis became interested in video game development at Carnegie Mellon University while using driving simulators to test out code he wrote to program a Humvee to drive itself. Davis says that his work in the $30 billion to $40 billion video game industry puts him on the cutting edge of computer science. “I get to work on the most demanding networking problems, artificial intelligence, and multimedia graphics,” he says.

In this lecture, Davis describes what makes for a good video game character and what’s been missing in video game characters to date. For instance, he says, today’s video game characters don’t have much emotional range. Usually, he says, “I’m either angry, because I’m about to shoot you, or I’m sad, because I just got shot.”

In addition, Davis says, video games need to catch up to other forms of entertainment in their ability to tell a good story that allows for more complex character interactions.

After all, he quips, “running around and killing is really a very small part of human interaction.”

November 28, 2007, 6 p.m.
Boston University School of Management

About the Speaker:

Ian Davis is one of the top artificial intelligence experts in the video game industry. Over the past decade, he has created several award-winning games, including: “Empire Earth II,” “Dungeon Siege,” “Empire Earth: The Art of Conquest,” “Call to Power II,” “Battlezone,” and “Dark Reign: Rise of the Shadowhand.” He is a peer panel leader for the Academy of Interactive Arts and Sciences Peer Panel for Gameplay Engineering, and he advises industry publishers. Currently authoring an AI and games textbook for academic and industry training along with top AI researchers, he has taught the course Characters in Video Games at MIT. He was recently appointed editor-in-chief of the Journal of Game Development.

Davis earned a doctorate in artificial intelligence and robotics from Carnegie Mellon University. In 1999, he founded Mad Doc Software, whose goal is developing games that “expand the game-playing experience and broaden the market through creative use of new networking, graphics, and AI technologies,” according to its Web site. Mad Doc team members have been responsible for more than 20 million units in the game market worldwide. In 2007, the Greater Boston Chamber of Commerce named Davis Entrepreneur of the Year. He is also one of the principal architects and instructors for the new graduate certificate in interactive multimedia and game engineering at Metropolitan College.

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