February 13, 2020

AI and Games at University of Malta – Modl.ai Start-up at TAKEOFF gets 1.7million investment

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Local Maltese start-up Modl.ai with a large contingent of Institute of Digital Games researchers has received a large investment from Propagator Ventures - an early-stage deep tech VC interested in ML/AI, quantum computing, robotics, new materials & encryption.

Modl.ai has three core areas of business: building and testing games using AI, procedurally generating content, and gaining player insights from playing data.

Team of Leading Game AI Researchers

Modl.ai was founded by veterans of games, psychometrics, and artificial intelligence with a large contingent from the Institute of Digital Games including co-founder Prof. Georgios Yannakakis (Institute of Digital Games). Institute of Digital Games alumni Dr. Christopher Holmgaard (CEO, Modl.ai) , Dr. Daniele Gravina and current PhD student Mr. David Melhart also form part of the core Modl.ai team.

In addition to the leading AI researchers from the Institute of Digital Games, Modl.ai’s team has a number of high-profile researchers from all over the world contributing to innovative game AI business solutions including:

Prof. Julian Togelius – Associate Professor, Tandon School of Engineering New York University
Prof. Togelius is also co-author (together with Prof. Yannakakis) of the textbook on game AI published by Springer: Artificial Intelligence and Games

Dr. Sebastian Risi - Co-director the Robotics, Evolution and Art Lab (REAL) at the IT University of Copenhagen
Dr. Risi visited the institute last year and delivered a very interesting presentation on Playing & Designing Games through Bio-Inspired AI

Gabriella Barros – PhD Student, Tandon School of Engineering New York University is also part of the Modl.ai team and her collaboration with Dr. Antonios Liapis (Institute of Digital Games) on “Data-driven Design: A Case for Maximalist Game Design” was awarded Runner-Up Best Student Paper Award at ICCC.

Automating Game Development might be the Future of AI in Videogames

As Propagator Ventures themselves indicate in their Medium post explaining their interest in Modl.ai, manual testing of games, balancing games, anomaly detection as well as toxic player/bot detection is especially demanding (particularly as gaming environments increase in scope and complexity).

Procedural Content Generation Algorithms

Daggerfall had a map that stretched out to an incredible 161,000 square kilometres and much of the terrain was randomly generated. Improving procedural content generation could improve the experience of such large maps.

Furthermore, by making AI agents that act human, it becomes easier for the developers to understand what the players will do and want in the game world that is being created.

Finally, balancing games with AI-assisted design allows for the developers to quickly understand whether their level creation is likely to work for the players. In fact, predicting the balance of level design and procedural content generation are some of the areas where the research at the Institute of Digital Games has made strides.

Games Are Simulated Environment for Broader AI Research

Games being essentially restricted virtual worlds, they can function as a bed for other research. Autonomous vehicles can use simulated unpredictable human behaviour to test how the vehicles react under these circumstances before implementing technologies in real life. This can be further combined with VR/AR environments to conduct further research using simulated environments or games. Therefore, the practicalities of Game AI stretch beyond their application of “just making games better/cheaper/bigger/more interesting” and into allowing for possibilities of using game environments to facilitate advancements in other fields.

3rd International Game AI Summer School

For game developers and researchers who may not be interested in a Ph.D or M.Sc. Modl.ai also organises the International Game AI Summer School with Prof. Yannakakis as one of the main lecturers. The summer school is held in Copenhagen this year and takes a less academic and research-based approach focusing on using AI innovations in games, ultimately culminating in a Game AI jam where participants put their newly-acquired knowledge to the test.

Want to learn from the best in game AI?

The Institute is at the forefront of game AI research, ranking in the top 10 (only slightly behind Google) in game research excellence and in the top 25 for postgraduate studies in game design. For those interested in pursuing a postgraduate degree (M.Sc. or Ph.D in Digital Games) it provides an excellent opportunity to combine Artificial Intelligence with games in a dynamic environment where courses are taught by people intensely involved in research and innovating game AI. If you want to stay up to date with the Institute’s research and events, you can subscribe to the Newsletter.