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TEDGlobal: Peter Molyneux wants you to talk to your TV

Peter Molyneux apologizes that his talk might be a bit of inside baseball. But since he’s a legendary game designer, everyone is willing to give him the benefit of the doubt. (Up to a point. Specifically, Molyneux is legendary for promising massive innovation through games like Black and White, and for building games that are not always popular successes.)

Molyneux tells us that he wants to recreate storytelling, for two reasons. The personal reason is pretty simple: he remembers the experience of sitting on his father’s knee, having him tell a story about a robot. The story changed shape as he reacted, and Molyneaux tells us that he was engaged with his father “as I’ve never engaged with a story again.”

The other reason is also pretty simple. “Entertainment, films, TV, even hallowed books ARE JUST RUBBISH, because they don’t involve me, the audience. I get washed over with a sea of blandness. I hate that.”

His solution is a novel technology platform – the Connect Camera. He tells us it will be a few hundred dollars. This, combined with some AI that was “sitting in a dusty vault in Microsoft” leads to a very different type of game, one that lets you interact with “a real, living being in a computer.” Molyneux tells us that “most of it is just a trick… but it’s a trick that actually works.”

The demo involves his associate, Dmitri, who sits in a chair without any controllers and managed the progress through the game using hand gestures, body movement and his voice. We see a live demo of moving a cursor-like ball onto four corners of the screen, and a “click” from pushing forward. Molyneaux narrates the story of Milo, a boy who’s just moved house from England to New England in America… and he’s conjured you up as someone to talk with. Your
interactions with Milo shape him over time – they change the course of his life.

To demonstrate video response, Milo asks us whether or not he should squash a snail. We’re able to tell him yes or no – Dmitri says “go ahead, Milo, squash it” and gets the right response. And we get a signal in the game that Milo has changed.

We move to an interior and to Milo being chewed out by his parents. And we’re encouraged to cheer him up, which is designed to build a bond with the on-screen character. Milo recognizes us and thanks us for the encouragement and for cleaning his room.

Molyneux tells us that “Milo’s mind is based in the cloud – it will get smarter” as more of us interact with him. We’re freed, he tells us, from the blandness of entertainment that doesn’t learn from us or interact with us. “I love the future that Milo brings.”

In questions with Chris Anderson, Molyneux is careful not to promise a release date for the technology, though mentions the camera should be available later this year.