Always wanted to play a video game where you interact with a futuristic artificially intelligent assistant, just like Tony Stark does in the Iron Man films with Jarvis, or the Joaquin Phoenix film Her, where a man develops a relationship with an intelligent computer operating system called Samantha?
Well, there's no such video game in existence at the moment, and the most you can do with voice commands is to order your Xbox Kinect around a bit, and you don't really get a verbal reply.
Austin Wilson, 16, was wishing that he could play video games where he used his voice as a controller, which would then free him up to focus on other commands while playing a space exploration, trading and combat game about the Milky Way Galaxy called Elite: Dangerous.
He did some research and realised that the game developers had actually included this function – users could use third-party voice recognition software to ask questions, which the space ship in the game could then answer by selecting a random sound file and simulating a key press to operate a specific function in the space ship.
"I personally found this very limiting, because this did not actually allow you to talk to your ship. I wanted the functionality to ask where I was in space and actually get a response back, and, after more research, I found that there was not a way to do this yet," Wilson wrote on his Hackster project page.
"Being a 16-year-old gamer with experience with Alexa, I knew that I would love some sort of interactive voice implementation, so I created one."
To make Amazon's Alexa personal assistant on the Amazon Echo voice control device, Wilson wrote two software programs to work on Windows 10. One program sends information from the spaceship in the game to Alexa, as well as allowing Alexa to communicate with and send commands to the game. The second piece of code curates all events from the game in a log and associates commands with the correct virtual key presses to make the voice commands work.
It's handy that Elite: Dangerous made it possible for voice recognition to be used with the game, and even better, he was able to using an existing public API maintained by Elite: Dangerous fans that contains detailed information on every single known star system in the game.
The end result is an impressively enhanced game whereby Alexa is able to tell Wilson exactly where the spaceship is in the game and to immediately recite information about star systems in Alexa's voice. Wilson can ask the AI assistant to give him information that he needs to make decisions in the game, and he can even tell Alexa how to fly the spaceship and initiate warp speed travel (known in the game as "Frame Shift Drive").
Amazon should probably take a page from Wilson's book when thinking about how to make the Amazon Echo into an indispensable gadget for gaming.