Following Microsoft's Cortana and Amazon's Alexa, Sony has filed a new patent for an AI-powered voice assistant called PlayStation Assist.
According to games industry analyst Daniel Ahmad, the assistant will work in-game, so you can ask a question - such as, say, where's the nearest health pack, or help on where to head to next - and the assistant will mark its location on your in-game map.
Sony has filed a new patent for an AI powered voice assistant called PlayStation Assist.— Daniel Ahmad (@ZhugeEX) September 29, 2019
You can input a query and then the game will dynamically respond.
E.g. Ask for the nearest health pack > The game marks it on your map.https://t.co/BQWibOqSRP pic.twitter.com/PNKDEH7jGe
Sony itself describes the feature as "a method for gaming assistance".
"For example, when a player gets stuck on a part of a gaming application, the player can request help through a query to a back-end game assist server," says the science bit of the patent application. "The query may be of any format, or a combination of formats, including audio, text, video, etc. The game assist server is configured to match the query to modelled responses based on a current game context from which the query was presented."
The patent explains the matching will be performed by "deep learning engine", managed by the game assist server or by a third party AI, so the "gaming experience of the player is improved".
"The player may want to gain more information about some aspect of the gaming application, such as character information, strategy information, overall popularity of the gaming application, scheduling a time to play with friends in a multi-player format through a cloud gaming service, gaining information about social network friends who are playing the same gaming application or another gaming application (e.g., discover what gaming application a friend is playing, obtaining information about that gaming application, obtaining purchasing information about that gaming application, etc.), obtaining information about how to overcome some obstacle preventing the player from advancing in the gaming application, etc.," adds Sony (via that very long sentence).
"As a result, the player has a more immersive experience with the gaming application, such that rather than just playing the gaming application out-of-the-box, so to speak, the player can enhance his or her game play with information that is presented (e.g., audio, text, video, etc.) simultaneously with the game play, and/or a running conversation with an automated gaming assistant (e.g., gaming butler/navigator) during the game play that is configured to provide psychological and informational support to the player."
The patent also includes details of a companion mobile device which could also track your in-game achievements and statistical information, such as how long you've been playing, and so on.
Of course, we see plenty of patents that never come to fruition, and this too could be one of them. But it's certainly plausible we could see this one come to life, particularly as the range - and scope - of digital AI assistants continues to grow, both in the games industry and beyond it.
Last month, a patent filed by Microsoft hinted at plans to turn smartphones into a handheld gaming device. The patent wasn't for the controller device itself, though; instead, it detailed a charging device for "removable input modules" that would feature two halves of a controller, each of which could be clipped around your smartphone to create a handheld gaming device not dissimilar to the Nintendo Switch. Unlike the Switch, however, it's suggested this device can only be used to control games streamed via Project xCloud games.