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Startup Inworld AI aims to populate the Metaverse with realistic AI humans. The team is made up of former AI researchers from Google and Deepmind, and is backed by big-name investors like Meta.

The Metaverse needs believable virtual characters in addition to many human users. That’s the business thesis of AI startup Inworld AI. The team is developing a platform with which companies and studios can create corresponding beings and adapt them to their needs.

In the future, AI humans will have “their own behaviors” and an “awareness of environment and context.” “Brains for virtual characters” is the start-up’s motto.

AI behavior: More than just language

The startup sees numerous applications for the digital characters: they could take on certain NPC roles for games, entertain guests in the Metaverse, act as company mascots or provide technical support.

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The big goal is characters that people can converse with. According to Inworld CEO and co-founder Ilya Gelfenbeyn, this involves more than speech: “Inworld characters should not be limited to speech only, but be able to interact with many of the modalities that humans use, such as facial gestures, body language, emotions, as well as physical interactions.”

The startup’s technology is inspired by the human brain and consists of three components, divided into perception, cognition and behavior, using a wide variety of AI techniques such as machine language processing and computer vision.

Inworld AI has experienced AI developers on its team

The founders bring the necessary AI expertise to the table. Gelfenbeyn was CEO of AI startup API.AI, which was acquired by Google in 2016 and whose technology forms the basis of Google’s Dialogflow speech engine.

Chief Technology Officer Michael Ermolenko was responsible for machine learning at API.AI and later Google. Newly joined is head of product Kylan Gibbs, who was responsible for generative language models in the same role at Deepmind.

Investors apparently see great potential in the team. Since its founding in July 2021, the startup has secured two seed financings: in November 2021 for seven million US dollars and at the beginning of March for ten million US dollars.

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Meta and ex-Oculus managers invest

Investors include Bitkraft Ventures, Venture Reality Fund, Kleiner Perkins, CRV, Meta, and prominent individuals such as Riot Games co-founder Marc Merrill, Twitch co-founder Kevin Lin, and Oculus co-founder Nate Mitchell.

The funding will go toward scaling up the team. The AI platform is expected to support popular game engines, VR worlds and games.

“With the backing of the most high-profile investors in the space, we will be able to enable developers and creators to leverage our platform to build and deploy virtual characters that enhance immersive and interactive virtual worlds,” Gelfenbeyn said.

The startup is currently looking for partners to implement the technology in their software. A beta version of the platform is expected to be released in the second quarter of 2022.

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Tomislav writes about Artificial Intelligence in the context of XR, art and virtual beings: How does AI contribute to the development of VR and AR, how does it reconstruct and extend human art, and what new forms of storytelling and NPC interaction does it enable?
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