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Dr. Tommy Thompson on why he turned his attention to AI in video games | Pocket Gamer.biz

Dr Tommy Thompson is an AI researcher and consultant, indie game developer and senior lecturer. He also runs his own consultancy business, AI and Games, known for its YouTube channel of the same name.

Thompson will be joining us at Pocket Gamer Connects Digital #2, our digital-only event bringing the usual brilliant Pocket Gamer Connects talks and panels directly to your desktop.

Ahead of the event, we spoke to Dr. Thompson about why he wanted to look closer at the games industry, and what challenges the industry faces when it comes to AI.

PocketGamer.biz: Tell us a bit about AI and Games.

Dr. Tommy Thompson: AI and Games was founded to help better communicate how artificial intelligence is implemented within the video games industry and to provide points of entry for both aspiring and seasoned developers to new technologies emerging from continued research in the field.

What does your role entail?

My focus is on research and communication: keeping abreast of the latest innovations in AI from different corners of the industry and providing concise breakdowns of its viability for clients. How this works can vary from between clients.

Whether I’m sitting in with smaller studios designing and programming their AI systems for their games or I’m providing reports on current trends to larger companies. In any case it’s all about enabling others to do the best work they can.

Why did you want to work in the games industry?

Coming from a background in academic research in artificial intelligence, myself and many others have explored games for many years as a fantastic domain within which AI can explore complex problems.

However, the reality is that the challenges for AI in the video game industry are quite unique compared to many other sectors. Hence I was driven to find a way to work with developers; help better communicate good practices and ideas emerging from both industry and academia that can change the games we make and how we make them.

What advice would you give to anyone looking to get into it?

While building your expertise is one thing, establishing positive and productive relationships is just as if not more important. You should be attending events, speaking with existing members of the industry, learning more about how you and your skills can help others within the community.

What are your thoughts on the industry in the last 12 months?

Some exciting innovations in hardware, ranging from the Nvidia RTX cards to new consoles and Intel 10th generation chipsets, are enabling for AI – specifically machine learning AI – to become more commonplace. Either optimising their execution or utilising these algorithms in new ways such as DLSS for graphic rendering.

It’s providing a foundation upon which new games will be able to explore these technologies in a more commercially viable way given the tools with which to execute them are becoming increasingly more commonplace.

How has the games industry changed since you first started?

Given I come from a background in academia, where I frequently teach games programming, the democratisation of tools (be it Unity, Unreal or middleware) is a huge step forward.

It’s enabling aspiring developers – not to mention researchers – to use industry-standard tools to build their own games and establish themselves in a way that was previously not possible.

Which part of the Connects event are you most looking forward to and why?

At the end of the day I’m a programmer, so I’ll be sitting through The Developer Toolkit sessions to learn as much as I can.

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