Peter Molyneux, the man behind Lionhead Studios and the fantasy based series, Fable, spoke at a TED Global (Technology, Entertainment, and Design) conference in Oxford on Tuesday, reintroducing Milo, the “virtual human” software that utilizes Microsoft’s upcoming Kinect controller for the Xbox 360. This is the first time Milo has been discussed since the E3 event held in 2009. Molyneux’s goal is to, "…introduce a new revolution in storytelling." He even believes that his pet project will set the course for a revolution in the way we interact with media. "Films, TV, even hallowed books, are just rubbish because they don't involve me," says Molyneux. "It's a sea of blandness." By creating a character that reacts to humans in a realistic way, he hopes to bridge the gap between the virtual and real worlds, emulating emotional exchanges down to the smallest detail.
The technology behind Milo is a mix of Lionhead and Microsoft tech, and much like the series Fable, interactions can alter characteristics of Milo to suit the play-style of an individual player. The artificial intelligence that comprises Milo can control facial reactions such as blushing or flaring nostrils to subtely indicate emotions to the player. Peter Molyneux believes that manipulating the appearance of Milo will convince the player that they are interacting with a living, breathing, and most importantly, thinking human being. "Most of it is just a trick - but it is a trick that actually works," he said. "After three-quarters of an hour, he recognizes you.”
The chances of releasing Milo in its current state are up in the air, but Molyneux states that it was developed to be used and ultimately influenced by millions of users. The multitude of interactions will act to evolve Milo over time. According to Molyneux, "His mind is based in the cloud. As millions of people use it, Milo will get smarter." It would seem likely that we will eventually see a version of Milo, similar to what was on display at the conference. At the very least, it would make sense to implement this technology into game like Fable, to add depth and strengthen the user experience. It would be a shame if it only lived on as a tech demo, when you consider the incredible amount of effort that was put into the project. If it lives up to the claims made by Molyneux, we will no doubt have a chance to experience the magic of Milo somewhere down the road.