October 5, 2004 Girls not knocking down your door to go out with you? Tired of dealing with those complex issues such as feelings? How about getting a "virtual girlfriend" instead? Hong Kong based company Artificial Life have developed an interactive virtual girlfriend that appears as an animated girl for new mobile phones with video capability. According to a company spokesperson, users of the latest 3-G mobile phones who subscribe to the service will be able to send messages to the virtual girlfriend, who will respond by voice. Each girlfriend will follow an evolving daily and weekly schedule which includes visiting her virtual home, work or bar, and shopping with her virtual girlfriends.
Although all the virtual girls look pretty similar, they behave in a different way depending on how well the user treats her.
Buying her flowers and diamonds will get her attention and advance the relationship to higher levels. In return, she will unlock new levels and aspects of her life, such as introducing her female friends - who also happen to be electronic images.
However, it's not as easy as it sounds, because the virtual girlfriend will get angry and ignore the user if she does not get what she wants. And since the users will be charged real money to pay for all those virtual flowers, in addition to the subscription charge, she might turn out to be not just virtual high maintenance, but real high maintenance! Although for now, it has not been determined how much the gifts will cost.
Classified as a game by its makers, it does not contain any elements of a sexual nature, and is "suitable for all ages", the spokesperson said.
Artificial Life hope to launch the new game later this year, with a "virtual boyfriend" equivalent scheduled for early next year.
The Virtual Girlfriend is based on intelligent animated 3-D characters (avatars) that live in a virtual mobile world. The virtual girls can be contacted and seen using a 3G phone at any time. However, the characters will be involved in different activities during the day, for example, the girlfriend may be in her virtual home or at her virtual workplace or in a virtual bar or restaurant or just shopping with another virtual friend in a virtual shopping mall.
The user can watch the characters during these activities and interact with them via the mobile phone. The characters and the game follow a certain daily and weekly schedule which will continuously change and progress over time.
Users can interact with the game characters on their mobile phones by sending SMS and MMS messages or chat with them in real time through a J2ME client. Several interactive game icons are available as well. Users even have the option to interact with the Virtual Girlfriend by sending her virtual gifts which can elevate the user to different, more sophisticated game levels. A Virtual Boyfriend version of the game is scheduled for release in February 2005.
The Virtual Girlfriend product line is scheduled for launch on December 1, 2004 and will be presented to the public and a broad audience during an invited speech by Artificial Life's Chairman and CEO at the upcoming 3G World Conference to be held in Hong Kong on November 15, 2004.
Many analysts expect this type of technology to eventually merge with Search and browser technology, develop into highly-personalised search engines which will act as virtual personal assistants.
"We are very proud of this new product line. It combines in a unique way our Smart Engine Mobile Platform(TM), proprietary artificial intelligence technology, human like behavior of the game characters, natural language processing in several languages including English, German, Chinese, Korean and Japanese, uses text to speech voices, high quality and realistic 3-D animations, a sophisticated and innovative game logic with a continuously evolving and always progressing story and user specific content delivery. For our corporate partners we offer a new and innovative way of advertisement: virtual product placements as part of the game. The Virtual Girlfriend is a lot of fun to play and the game sets new and high standards for future 3G mobile games" said Eberhard Schoeneburg, CEO of Artificial Life, Inc. www.artificial-life.com