First there was Microsoft Bob, now there is Milo.

Milo is a four-year-old virtual boy, unveiled by Microsoft as the world’s first real virtual character who is convincing enough to be considered‘human’.

The player’s voice commands and physical movements are picked up by an infra-red sensor which works with artificial intelligence to interpret the player’s intonation and meaning, and respond accordingly.

Microsoft claims the game marks a major shift away from joystick-based entertainment and brings science fiction into life.

‘Milo’ is a story-telling game about a little boy who’s unhappy because his family has moved from London to New England in America and his parents are too busy to listen to what’s on his mind.

Developer Peter Molyneux said he wanted to recreate the feeling he had as a four-year-old boy when his father told him a story about a robot.

He admitted that when he first showed off Milo ‘there was a huge row online about that with people saying ‘this can’t be real’’.

But he assured them it was and said he started the project because he wanted to ‘introduce a new revolution in storytelling.

‘Films, TV, even hallowed books, are just rubbish because they don’t involve me,’ he said. ‘It’s a sea of blandness.’

He added that he wanted to create a character ‘that seemed alive, that would look me in the eyes, and feel real.

Milo was first shown off in a demo at the E3 expo in 2009, but has not been seen since until the TED (Technology, Entertainment and Design) Global conference in Oxford.

‘We’re changing the mind of Milo constantly,’ Molyneux said. ‘No two people’s Milos can be the same – you are actually sculpting a human being. Some of the things you are doing will change the course of his life.’

Milo works with the soon-to-be released Xbox 360 Kinect controller – as series of sensors, microphones and cameras interpret the player’s actions movements.

That combines with artificial intelligence he has developed by his own company, Lionhead Studios, which made use of psychological techniques to make it feel ‘real’.

Particular attention was paid to Milo’s facial expressions which are incredibly realistic, allowing him to blush and his nostrils to dilate, indicating he is stressed.

The game is still in the early stages of development so will not be available for some time but it has already sparked serious excitement.

[via]