SoftBank Robotics was at the Mobile Games Forum held in January 20th and 21st in London, Despite the usual format of the conference, Joan Da Silva, Aldebaran’s Content & Design Director expanded the conference focus with a compelling lecture on “Robots: The Next Big Thing for the Mobile Games Industry”.
Despite his current role at Aldebaran / SoftBank driving Robot Application Publishing, Joan has a previous 15 year career in designing games for companies like Rovio and Ubisoft.
His presentation demonstrated why robots can be the next gaming platform and bring a whole new type of interaction to games, as well as exploring the opportunities and challenges for game developers.
Pepper was introduced as a prime example of modern robotics role in providing much more than functional or technical services, and engaging users as an ‘interface’ which drives empathy and human understanding.
Joan went on to explain the pressure of designing a device predated by Hollywood, science fiction and pop culture. The figure of robot has been described and fantasized for hundreds of years and science fiction has generated a lot of expectations, and these expectations have to be taken into account.
Despite frequent announcements of “breakthroughs in AI”, we are still far from a Human-level artificial intelligence. Designers, animators, and programmers are needed to write the robot interaction rules and create good experiences for users. This is also an amazing challenge which calls for creativity and imagination.
Due to their nature, both technological connected devices and popular figures generating empathy, social robots can also be transformed into gaming companions or platforms.
Obviously, it is the beginning of this industry. Robots are improving everyday and their abilities in the coming years will be greatly evolved compared to today. But, as Joan says, “No one waited for the PS4 launch to start developing games and build an entire market”.
Similarly, it only took a decade for the mobile game industry to emerge. In a very short time we went from basic small games, directly embedded on the device, to a full self-service ecosystem blurring the boundaries between social interaction, gaming and generating billions dollar incomes.
Finally, Joan demonstrated a simple mini-game for Pepper called musical boxes. Given its simplicity - it was the perfect demonstration of the potential for Pepper and other robotic platforms to become a significant gaming platform.