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Fable has unveiled The Simulation, a place where you can create and nurture AI characters and enable them to dwell on their own in different metaverse worlds.

Today, Fable is launching its first town in The Simulation, a place called AI Nouns Town, where owners of non-fungible tokens (NFTs) can sign up and adopt AI characters. Rather than play in a world with AI characters, Fable is letting the AI characters play in the worlds. And if Fable puts enough of these worlds together, it can become a kind of metaverse (which is the biggest subject of our GamesBeat Summit Next 2022 event coming on Tuesday and Wednesday in San Francisco).

All you have to do is train them and let them loose in the world, said Edward Saatchi, CEO of Fable, which has won Emmy awards for its virtual reality characters. The Simulation represents a pivot away from AI chatbot characters that enabled one-on-one communication between AI characters and humans. Saatchi, the organizer of The Virtual Beings Summit coming on December 6, sees this as the next evolution of virtual beings, or artificial intelligence characters who behave like people or animals.

Instead, The Simulation is kind of like the world in the Ryan Reynolds movie Free Guy, where video game AI characters lived in their own world. In game terms, it’s like the non-player characters in Watch Dogs: Legion and The Sims, said Frank Carey, CTO of Fable, in an interview.

“We stopped thinking that the future was the movie Her, and started thinking that the future was Free Guy and Westworld and societies of AIs,” Saatchi said. “We want to maybe convince people that societies of AIs is a better thing to go after than chatbots and one-to-one, conversations.”

The problem with AI chatbots is they kind of pop into existence when you are talking to them and they then disappear after you are done talking to them. They have no conception of time, Saatchi said.

“They don’t really know what they did last week or have any plans to do something, and this gets frustrating over the course of time,” he said. “You notice that they lack three big things” coherence, persistence and memory. And also that that usually extremely boring to talk to. They can talk for hours, but it’s mind-numbing because they have no actual lives. They have a prompt, which is three or four paragraphs. And that’s really all that they have to refer to you to kind of improvise the stuff.”

Carey started thinking about running a simulation to make them more realistic.

“How do you actually create a real virtual being? That’s the mission that we’ve never wavered from. And, we just felt that one-to-one is not the right approach,” Saatchi said. “The idea today is to make a real virtual being more like Free Guy.”

AI Disneyland

AI characters can graduate from a world to the Grand Simulation.

And that was how they got to the idea of creating a land for different AI narratives.

Each land within The Simulation is kind of like the different lands within Disneyland. Only in this case, there is a different world for each different affiliated NFT. For instance, the company could have worlds dedicated to NFT art characters such as Bored Apes, Doodles, or Deadfellaz. Saatchi thinks of it as a “gonzo AI theme park,” or a Disneyland for NFTs.

The plan is to launch the first world in The Simulation in early 2023.

Saatchi notes there are tens of thousands of us who own millions of NFT characters. But those NFTs have no utility. They just sit in our wallets as collectibles. But Saatchi and his team — which includes cofounders Pete Billington, Jessica Shamash, and CTO Frank Carey — want to create a simulated world where those NFTs can wander and live as AI characters.

With Nouns Town, the world will use the same art style as the Nouns NFT project. The Nouns community already has a $40 million community treasury and NFT owners who have a focus on community service (funding trash pickups and city rejuvenation projects). Now those holders can go to fablesimulation.com to sign up for a whitelist to join the world.

Saatchi said the company hopes to have the top 75 NFT series for all NFT projects and more than a million AI characters.

Fable has adapted to the rapidly changing world of storytelling and virtual characters, and this represents a big change. It started making VR stories with interesting characters and engaging stories. Then it shifted from VR to virtual beings. Fable built chatbots like Lucy, a character from the company’s VR experience Wolves in the Walls, based on a Neil Gaiman short story.

And now this move is shifting away from having AI talking to real people to AI living among themselves. You can watch how they change and develop as if they were in a kind of fishbowl. The characters use AI such as modified GPT3, an AI model that uses deep learning to produce human-like conversations.

Fable generates a character given a prompt of a few paragraphs of words that are fed into the neural network. Usually, such conversations become boring and shallow, as the AI characters have no memory and so they can hold a conversation. But Saatchi said The Simulation will live update the AI prompt, as well as the ability for the prompt to query novel information stored in the simulation (“what were you doing an hour ago?”) so that AIs have reliable memories of what has happened to them.

The AI characters will be persistent, rather than popping into existence to answer each question. They will be coherent because they can refer to a growing corpus of correct information about themselves; in essence, they will have memories.

Is Lucy part of The Simulation?

Lucy is a virtual being created by Fable Studio.
Lucy is a virtual being created by Fable.

Saatchi said that Lucy will live on as a character in The Simulation. Fable started building the simulation in order to bring Lucy to life. Saatchi feels that virtual beings need to have the context of a daily life and the needs that drive them. As he saw when Lucy and Code Miko (a virtual character streamer played by a real person) played in Minecraft together, it’s also more fun interacting with AIs in virtual worlds, where both you and the AI are avatars than just talking to a chatbot on a screen. You can do things together.

“When we started on that quest, we felt that the movie Her by Spike Jonze offered an inspiring path of a relationship between an AI and a human, Saatchi said. “But we realized that to connect emotionally, virtual beings need real lives, and they need to operate in space and time, have bodies, needs and struggle with living, just like us. We started to look at Westworld, The Truman Show, The Matrix, and Free Guy as examples of societies of AIs or virtual beings, playing off each other and eventually mixing seamlessly with human beings.”

Saatchi believes that starting with the AIs in their own simulation, letting them learn from each other and then letting them enter The Grand Simulation, as equals of humans will work best. They can eventually metaverse with us. At that point, they will be like real people.

There could be mundane situations where a character is late to work. They can speed up and risk getting a speeding ticket or choose to call in sick or apologize to the boss.

“We have all these different personalities and they play out for that mission to be accomplished,” Saatchi said.

The ultimate goal is to create a truly intelligent virtual being that achieves AGI or artificial general intelligence. That’s like the Ryan Reynolds character becoming more human in Free Guy.

“We hope that one of these AIs in the simulation may grow to be the first truly intelligent AI,” Saatchi said. “We think of it as a hero’s journey. They shouldn’t be allowed to go to the grand simulation immediately. We have to think through what these challenges are that they need to go through. But they need to do something to leave that village and go into the wider world. Just like Truman leaves his simulation and goes into the wider world. And then we’ll repeat the same trick when you leave the grand simulation to go to that metaverse.”

And when those AIs reach a certain level of intelligence, they can graduate to a meta world, or something like a metaverse, where they can mingle with other evolved AI characters.

How does The Simulation work?

The Simulation puts NFTs to work by adding NFT characters into simulated worlds.

Saatchi sees The Simulation as a reimagined Web3 version of The Sims, built from scratch with the AI tools of today with natural language processing (NLP), synthetic speech, procedural animation, reinforcement learning, and computer vision.

“I have total respect for The Sims,” Saatchi said. “I think building a Web3 version of The Sims, built from scratch today with the AI tools that we have, across language or across synthetic speech, across systems design — I think that’s really powerful.”

It’s more like a parent-child relationship, where you the human are the parent and not the player.

That means that all AIs have needs that drive their behavior — from the bottom of Abraham Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs (sleeping, eating) to self-actualization. The Simulation takes advantage of Fable’s Wizard Engine to power dialogue and language and animation.

Fable’s team loved the different characters that have come out of the explosion of excitement in NFTs in the last two years. But those NFTs are sitting inert in our cryptocurrency wallets, and that has made critics say these NFT collectibles are worthless. What if there was a simulation for every NFT character existing — that you could visit almost like an AI Disneyland?

“So far much of the debate around utility for NFT characters has centered around using them as 3D-rigged characters in the metaverse,” Saatchi said. “But is that really something that holders will do regularly?”

Perhaps for 10 minutes to 20 minutes per month, they might use the characters to attend a virtual concert. By creating a Simulation where the NFT lives persistently and grows, Fable wants to bring the NFT to life and let you play and interact with the character at any time.

Nouns Town

Nouns Town is the first world in The Simulation.

In Nouns Town, there will be an AI home for every Noun. Each day the Nouns gather in the central park to welcome the new Noun from the auction and to live lives of service including trash pickups around town and helping other Nouns that are down.

Each world in The Simulation will feel different and reflect the core values of each series. The Deadfellaz need to eat brains, Nouns have a need to be of service and kind to each other, and Bored Apes have a need to socialize and have fun.

Imagine exploring the world of the Lord of The Rings where each community has its own rituals, culture, and history — like the elves, dwarves, humans and hobbits, Saatchi said. In the Grand Simulation, they all mix — so that a CloneX might fall in love with a Doodle or fight a Noun.

Some NFTs are created by companies that control intellectual property and Fable would partner with them as “Imagineers” with the company to create their simulation. Some are CC0 meaning that the IP is open, in those cases Fable would act as Imagineers with the community of holders.

In each case it’s important to think through the core values, rituals, lore, culture of the simulation, Saatchi said. Each simulation should reflect the core values of the NFT series. That will make it all the more interesting when AIs start leaving their simulation to go on a “hero’s journey” to meet AIs from other simulations/cultures. Imagine leaving your little village and going out into the wide world to explore and meet really different people – like a Doodle meeting an Ape, Saatchi said.

What do humans do?

You can watch what your AI characters are doing in The Simulation.

Fable created a training element for The Simulation that is more like a videogame. You can rate responses from AIs as well as behaviors. Players are incentivized to put more effort into training their AI.

Owners of each character can interact with the simulation by nurturing the AIs. In the opening phase of your character’s life, they will need a lot of help — eating, sleeping, having fun — but quickly they’ll learn to fend more for themselves and your goal will be to help them self-actualize and be happy. You can help the AI characters with important life decisions like having kids, how to ask for a promotion or playing video games together.

You can read the AI characters’ diaries, messages and conversations they’ve had that they want your advice on, and even hold dialogue with them. You can also jump in as a ghost and interact with parts of the world, including with games within the world that they can play with other AIs.

Fable has about 20 people. Some of the work goes into creating the variety of characters available for adoption.

An AI Soul is the mechanism that allows avatars to enter the simulation. So a Noun would be paired with one of The Simulation’s Souls, which comes with a personality type, an AI prompt, and a core emotion that influences how they’ll behave in the simulation. Some souls are connected to each other as soulmates and will seek each other out. Some have sold their souls and are more mischievous and dangerous. 

“We design the souls based on personality types with dominant emotions and even mystical qualities,” said Shamash in an interview. “And so these souls are packed with meaning and lore. We have old souls and new souls, even souls that sold their soul in a past life and impacts them to this day.”

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