Cambridge-based startup PROWLER.io has secured £1.5 million ($1.94 million) in seed investment to fund development of its sophisticated decision-making AI engine designed to revolutionise autonomous system design. The investors in the round are Passion Capital, Amadeus Capital and Infocomm Investments (IIPL).
Prowler.io’s researchers and engineers are developing next-generation machine learning algorithms that will improve the quality and development speed of AI decision making systems, with the investment aimed at prototyping the platform with select partners.
Initially targeting game developers, the venture intends to expand beyond the gaming industry, given that its technology enables superior decision-making and more natural in-game behaviour from non-player characters (NPCs) through AI, revolutionising current games industry techniques and thinking.
Currently, most in-game NPCs (non-player characters) behave in a manner which sees them controlled by hand-crafted decision rules, often leading to unnatural and repetitive gameplay. However, the use of machine learning is hoped to enables improved testing and an enhanced gameplay experience, as well as accelerating development cycles.
In addition to gaming, PROWLER.io is exploring its application with regards to autonomous vehicles (AVs) in the form of cars, drones, and other platforms, with smart city simulations and robotics as additional fields which can benefit from the application of bots which are autonomous, tunable and self-learning.
“Clearly there are very compelling investment opportunities around reinforcement learning, which is one of the most active research areas in AI and machine learning,” said Hermann Hauser, co-founder and partner at Amadeus Capital.
“As a research-led start-up, PROWLER.io is at the very forefront of this emerging technology and is leading the charge to apply reinforcement learning to many current and future challenges. This state-of-the-art technology will continue to develop in the coming years and there are certain to be important applications that we haven’t yet considered.”
The development path for those sectors is similar to that required by gaming and therefore the research is easily transferable to many other use cases and commercial opportunities. Analysts predict that these industries will reach a combined total value of more than $1 trillion by 2025. The investment by IIPL, a government investment firm, comes at a times when Singapore is making a push towards automated vehicles.
PROWLER.io’s bots use “reinforcement learning,” a speciality of machine learning which enables long chains of complex decisions to be made autonomously, enabling highly artificially intelligent bots to learn and adapt to changing environments; this serves to render NPC behaviour in video game environments more natural (e.g. reactiing to an environment being destroyed in a video game gun battle) or enabling an autonomous vehicle to deal intelligently with the fluid traffic conditions.
Commenting on the investment, Eileen Burbidge, a partner at Passion Capital, comments: “We invested in PROWLER.io because we see near limitless use cases for next-generation machine and reinforcement learning to revolutionise industries.
“From smart city infrastructure to agriculture to drones, in the very near future powerful artificial intelligence is going to change the world we live in for the better. The huge potential of the technology combined with the calibre of the PROWLER.io team make this a very exciting proposition,” she added.
Vishal Chatrath, CEO of PROWLER.io, comments: “Gaming is a 100-billion-dollar industry which is still reliant on hugely complex, inflexible and expensive hand-made decision rules. As well as being extremely labour-intensive to build, they also deliver a substandard experience for gamers: NPCs don’t evolve as the game environment changes, for example.”
Given the reliance of many games on extended playing time to generate revenue, in addition to integrated micro-payments, user experiences need to be enhanced in order to avoid irrelevance, with sophisticated AI and machine learning emerging as the most relevant tools to create and deliver a user experience that can retain them while reducing development costs, as well as costs related to client acquisition and retention.
Commenting on the investment, Zach Tan, director at Infocomm Investments’ London office, said, “We believe that the gaming environment and AI research exist symbiotically: by applying them together, the gaming environment becomes more realistic and that in turn becomes a fantastic platform for furthering research into artificial intelligence.”
Tan adds, “Smart city simulations are comparable to a gaming environment and this symbiosis is pushing the technology frontier further and further forward. There’s a huge market opportunity in Asia for these types of technologies, for example, in applications for Singapore’s Smart Nation programme.”