molyneux1In our previous coverage of day 2 of the PICNIC conference, I skipped over Peter Molyneux’s session called Innovation in Entertainment because it warranted additional attention. In case you’re unfamiliar with his work, Molyneux is a computer/video games mogul who has been working in the games industry for over 20 years now. His work pioneered several genres of video games through projects like Populous, Theme Park and Syndicate  for Bullfrog Production, now integrated into EA UK.

Molyneux later moved on to Lionhead Studios, where he created ground-breaking games including Black & White  and Fable. Molyneux is currently the head of Lionhead Studios, which was acquired by Microsoft Game Studios in 2006. Since June 2009, Molyneux has also been head of the European division of MS Game Studios.

Molyneux started his speech by showing his passion for games and the games industry. He declared that games are one of the most creative endeavours in existence because they take technology and use it to present a story in the most engaging and immersive way imaginable. For Populous, this involved using a 5×4 pixel grid for a characters face, making it rather hard to show emotions. Molyneux noted that the distance between the screen and the player is still huge: current resolutions are still far from reality. Moreover, games today mostly seem to be for one of only two categories: either for corporate use, or for the hardcore gamer. Games require a lot of manual dexterity, use complicated controllers and create other barriers that prevent players from having an enjoyable experience.

This is where Project NATAL comes in. You have probably heard of NATAL, the new technology allowing you to use your body as a controller, from Microsoft’s showcase of at the 2009 E3. NATAL is not just a motion detection technology, however. It also offers the possibility of facial and voice recognition. Molyneux and Lionhead have been working on taking these technologies and combining them with advanced versions of the AI and adaptive learning systems used in games like Black & White to create a whole new entertainment experience called Milo. Milo is a little boy that lives in your Xbox who interacts with the user in several very interesting ways. The best way to get an idea of what Milo can do is to watch Molyneux discuss the project.

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