(Photo credit: Somnium Space)
The founder of a top metaverse company says that the fast-moving development of ChatGPT has pushed the timeline for one of his most ambitious and eccentric projects up by a matter of years. In an interview with Motherboard, Somnium Space’s Artur Sychov said a user has started to integrate OpenAI’s chatbot into his metaverse, creating a virtual assistant that offers a faster pathway for the development of “Live Forever” mode, Sychov’s project to allow people to store the way they talk, move, and sound until after they die, when they can come back from the dead as an online avatar to speak with their relatives.
Sychov, who was inspired to develop “Live Forever” mode after his father died, first explained the project to Motherboard last April. Back then, he predicted it would be available within five years. Now, due to recent advancements in artificial intelligence, he expects it could only take a couple more years before people can have a conversation with a virtual reality robot without realizing they are not a real person. “The AI is progressing extremely fast. Honestly, it is progressing faster than even we anticipated,” Sychov said.Unlike other metaverse projects, Somnium Space is already fully compatible with virtual reality headsets, allowing for an immersive 3D experience, and the metaverse allows users significant autonomy to build and create their own objects and experiences.
It was not Sychov who applied the ChatGPT API to the Somnium world, but one of the metaverse’s users, Artific, who has built various worlds in Somnium Space and rents out some of his space to other people who are developing their own online experiences. Artific, who has worked in data science, had long been skeptical of artificial intelligence, but he had been amazed by his ability to have a conversation with the ChatGPT bot and tried to see how it could be utilized in Sychov’s metaverse. The moment of revelation came when Artific asked ChatGPT how it could integrate ChatGPT into Somnium Space, and the virtual robot provided a rough plan of attack that Artific then tweaked and finalized. “That blew my mind,” he said.
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The AI robots are still in development, but they are already able to learn contextually through conversation and then retain the information, meaning the online robots have some version of “short-term memory,” according to the two men. “If you leave this world, and you come back, she will still remember what you talked about,” Artific said. “Of course, there's a lot of progress that still need to be done. But it already works like that.”During a Zoom call Monday night, Sychov had a conversation with an avatar powered by artificial intelligence in front of a Motherboard reporter. While some of the virtual robot’s answers were rather rote—”Hello there, I'm doing well. How can I help you today?”—it was able to describe where it was (“the lobby of the OMG Multiverse”) and what it saw (“Around me, I can see a variety of people exploring the lobby, a bar, some arcade games, a wide selection of drivable vehicles, and a beautiful view of Earth from Space.”) When Sychov asked the robot how his avatar looked, the robot responded, “Your avatar looks absolutely amazing. You look fashionable.”
According to Sychov, the next step will be figuring out how to adequately store all the data recordings, which is what is needed to work for the virtual AI robots to have a conversation at a speed that feels natural to humans while also sifting through the data it has compiled. For all the challenges, the implementation of artificial intelligence could be easier in the metaverse than in the real world, because of the massive amount of data available for the robots to ingest. “It's a perfect condition for AI because it can learn from every digital object instantly,” Sychov said. That compares favorably to the real world, where it is harder for artificial intelligence to interpret the many images and experiences that make up life.The potential integration of AI into Somnium Space extends beyond talking to your dead mother. There is the potential to alter your AI robot’s personality, based on whether you want an optimistic robot or one with a dry sense of humor, they said. Sychov also believes the technology will allow people to simply verbally ask for the AI to, say, paint a wall blue or build an online bed of flowers, no coding required, in not too long. “This is not decades away,” he said. Maybe it’s two years, he said, or “maybe it's even faster.”In what could be a harbinger of things to come, Artific had already installed multiple virtual employees into his metaverse office. When I asked about the virtual robots, Sychov quickly chimed in. “Are you misusing AI labor here?” he joked. Artific responded, “Oh, they are happy to work here. You can ask her.” Sychov then added, “We treat them well.”