The Unity and IBM Partnership Is as Much About Business Apps as It Is About Gaming

R. Bhattacharyya

Summary Bullets:

  • The announced IBM and Unity partnership has the potential to expose a larger audience to the world of AI.
  • The implications of the deal go beyond gaming; it could change both the way consumers expect to interact with software – at home and at work – and the way developers design software in the future.

Last week, Unity and IBM announced a partnership that could have significant implications for the adoption of artificial intelligence (AI) in both consumer and business applications. The two companies launched IBM Watson Unity SDK, which enables developers to integrate Watson’s cloud-based AI features into Unity applications. Developers can include features such as Watson’s speech-to-text, visual recognition, language translation, and language classification capabilities in their programs, changing how users issue commands and how software responds to them.

At first glance, the agreement appears to promote the incorporation of AI capabilities into AR/VR video games, streamlining the way players interact with and experience a game. One possibility is that games could respond to voice commands or that players’ speech could trigger events. However, the implications of this deal are far greater, for it has the potential to expose a larger audience to the world of AI, changing the way consumers expect to interact with software – both at home and at work – and the way developers design software in the future. The end result will be a far more immersive experience.

Consumers already have daily exposure to AI via speech recognition on their mobile phones, chatbots that perform customer service functions, or software that suggests additional purchases based on recent activity. But, these aren’t the immersive experiences that AR/VR can offer – especially AR/VR that includes AI. By incorporating AI into gaming, users’ understanding of the potential of tools such as text analytics and visual recognition will mature, and similarly, expectations will grow.

Bringing a greater awareness of AI to the masses via games isn’t a new strategy for IBM, or for other companies. IBM heavily promoted Watson’s capabilities via its now famous Jeopardy! initiative, and computers have for years been challenged to prove their prowess in chess. The Jeopardy! campaign drove home the message of Watson’s potential – both for the consumer and the enterprise – in a way that a broader audience could readily grasp. With this latest partnership, IBM merely continues on this path, but takes it to the next level by promoting AI not as a game contestant, but instead as a vital component of the game itself. It’s a smart move. The venue appeals to today’s youth – the same people that will grow up to be tomorrow’s developers.

A lot is on the line for IBM and Watson. By partnering with Unity, IBM is working with a leader in the AR/VR gaming industry, giving it significant exposure to a broad and up-and-coming customer base. Users will be quick to judge whether the features perform as expected. But if they do, and today’s (and tomorrow’s) gamers embrace what is a more natural way to interact with computers, they will be expecting the same experience from other applications. More importantly, they will be including them in the software they create for finance, healthcare, manufacturing…and the list goes on and on. AI will be integrated more seamlessly into our everyday experiences, and it will be more likely to penetrate business applications and change the way we all do our jobs.

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