HomeArtificial IntelligenceBye-bye bots: Altera's playful AI agents get support from Eric Schmidt

Bye-bye bots: Altera's playful AI agents get support from Eric Schmidt

Autonomous, AI-based gamers are coming to a gaming experience near you and a brand new startup, Alterajoins the fight to construct this recent guard of AI agents.

The company announced on Wednesday that it had raised $9 million in an oversubscribed seed round co-led by First Spark Ventures (Eric Schmidt's deep tech fund) and Patron (the seed-stage fund co-founded by Riot Games alumni). collected US dollars.

The funding follows Altera's previous raising of $2 million from Andreessen Horowitz and others in January of this 12 months. Now Altera wants to make use of the brand new capital to rent more scientists, engineers and team members to assist with product development and growth.

If the primary wave of end-user AI was about AI bots; and more recently, AI “copilots” are using generative AI to grasp and reply to increasingly sophisticated requests, then AI agents are emerging as the subsequent stage of development. The focus is on how AI will be used to create increasingly human-like, sophisticated entities that may reply to and interact with real people.

An early use case for these agents was gaming – particularly to be used in games that support modifications (mods) equivalent to Minecraft. Voyager is a current project constructing on the Minedojo framework that creates and develops Minecraft AI agents, and this can be where Altera gets its start.

The company's first product is an AI agent that may play Minecraft with you “identical to a friend” (the waiting list to try it out will be found here), but this appears to be just chapter one for the corporate. “We are constructing multi-agent worlds, opening up exciting opportunities in entertainment, market research and more,” the corporate guarantees on its website. And then? Robot dreams, it seems.

“Creating the human qualities needed to show co-pilots into colleagues and exploring a world where digital humans are given a physical form factor,” explains Altera.

At the helm of Altera is Robert Yang, a neuroscientist and former assistant professor at MIT. In December 2023, Yang and Altera's other co-founders – Andrew Ahn, Nico Christie and Shuying Luo – left their applied research lab at MIT to pursue a brand new goal: developing AI agents (or “AI friends”) , as Yang calls them) with “social-emotional intelligence” that may interact with players and make their very own decisions in the sport.

“My goal in life as a neuroscientist was to go all the best way and construct a digital human — redefining what AI was able to,” Yang told TechCrunch. This doesn’t mean that Yang acts from a misanthropic perspective. “Our robust, pro-human framework means we develop agents that empower, not replace, humanity,” he emphasizes.

What's notable about Yang and Altera's focus is their deal with the patron. This contrasts with a significant shift we have now seen in AI towards developing models that will be used to either speed up or sometimes replace humans in enterprise environments. (Even with OpenAI, ChatGPT was definitely a viral hit worldwide, but essentially the startup was attempting to construct a business around using its APIs.)

“We see more potential in constructing agents inside the gaming industry,” he said. “This approach allows us to iterate faster, collect data more effectively, and deliver a product where there are eager users and where emerging behavior is a feature, not a bug.”

(And yes, in step with its consumer focus, it shouldn't surprise you that the corporate isn't talking about monetization in any respect for now.)

Similar to the Voyager GPT-4 based Minecraft bot, Altera's autonomous agents are able to playing Minecraft as in the event that they were humans and completing tasks equivalent to constructing, crafting, farming, trading, mining, attacking, equipping items, Chat and move.

Altera's Agents are designed to be companions for players, not assistants who do what you tell them. Unlike NPCs (non-player characters), they’ve the liberty to make their very own decisions, which might make the sport either more entertaining or frustrating depending in your play style.

In a video demo, Yang plays through several scenarios, including one wherein he tries to persuade the AI ​​agent to attack other people. The bot hesitates at first and kinds into the chat: “I don't want any trouble, can we just discover a peaceful solution?” Fighting won't solve anything.” Yang mocks him and orders others to attack the “weak” bot. It eventually defends itself and kills Yang's Minecraft character. “I’ll make them regret bothering me,” the AI ​​agent wrote.

While the ending could also be a bit scary, the gameplay is not any different than a standard session with friends, frolicking and competing against one another.

Altera is currently testing the model with 750 Minecraft players and plans to officially launch it later this summer. It shall be available through Altera's desktop app, which is free to download but in addition offers paid features.

Minecraft is only a start line for Altera. The company plans to eventually apply the model to other video games and other digital experiences. Altera's AI agents “perform an motion as code, meaning they will play any game without material customization,” Yang explained. For example, it could work with Stardew Valley, he said. Altera may even integrate the technology into game engine SDKs to enable “broader use by developers.”

In addition to recent investments from First Spark and Patron, Altera has received the support of an extended list of high-profile investors, demonstrating confidence in the corporate's potential. Altera has investors including Alumni Ventures, a16z SPEEDRUN, Benchmark partner Mitch Lasky, Duolingo Chief Business Officer Bob Meese, Vamos Ventures, Valorant co-founder Stephen Lim, and more.

“There is a large opportunity to create AI companions that engage in all areas of our lives. However, today’s AI lacks critical qualities like empathy, embodiment and private goals, which prevent it from forming real, lasting connections with people,” Aaron Sisto, partner at First Spark Ventures, said in an announcement. “Robert and the team at Altera leverage deep expertise in computational neuroscience and LLMs to develop entirely recent kinds of AI agents which might be fun, unique, and consistent across platforms. We are excited to be a part of their journey.”


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