We mentioned a few weeks ago that Star Trek: Bridge Crew would be adding support for interactive speech powered by IBM’s Watson Cognitive computing platform. Well, as of 5pm BST today, that support is live for its beta period!
How did this IBM-Ubisoft collaboration come about? “For me, VR began in the 90s, when I was in college for Computer Science” explains David Votypka, the Creative Director for VR Projects at Red Storm Entertainment, developer of Star Trek Bridge Crew. “The draw for VR for me was really the idea that we could step into a world and be part of it and interact with it. To transcend from what we’re limited or what we can’t do in the real world, into something that was virtually real. But people’s expectations for it were way higher than what could be delivered back then. Fast forward about 20 years now, and it’s really encouraging – the hardware we have now allows us to take that first step of creating a sense of presence and convincing people in their minds that they really are stepping into this alternate reality.”
“We wanted to figure out what kind of games we could build around this experience of being in a world with other people,” adds the Game’s Director Brian Tate. “And one of the very first ideas that rose to the top – one of the worlds we wanted to inhabit with other people – was Star Trek. We wanted to get on the bridge of a star ship and fly it with other people.”
Developing for VR presents a number of new problems, not least finding natural ways for players to interact. Back to Votypka, “you’re a captain and using a menu system you can give orders through a menu system – and that’s very cool in a different way. You’re still living that Star Trek fantasy, but VR is about being as real – as virtually real – as possible. So that menu system was just our lowest common denominator way of approaching the problem. We started talking to IBM about Watson, and they said ‘hey, Watson does great speech recognition and voice recognition and it seems like a natural fit for the game – what do you think?’ and I was like, yeah, that’d be awesome because it compliments VR perfectly to be able to interact with NPCs in a real natural way.”
Now voice support is live, you’ll be prompted to accept terms and conditions for using Watson before the feature activates – then you’re good to go. The speech features come into play when the Captain is working with an all-AI crew, or with a mix of AI and human crew-mates. To give an order using the Watson tech, just hold down the “Orders” button and bark your game command, “fire on my target,” “helm, full speed ahead,” “engineering, transport survivors” and so on. The team have even added a few extras to enhance the Star Trek feel – “make it so” will engage warp or impulse to the targeted destination, “on screen” responds to a hail, “damage report” brings up the ship status, and “red alert” causes all your human teammates to freak out (by activating the red alert siren).
If you want to switch the feature off completely, pop into the Options menu, Audio, Voice Recognition and switch it off.
Star Trek: Bridge Crew is available not for Oculus Rift, HTC Vive, and PlayStation VR. To find out more, check out our previous coverage.