We spoke to NVIDIA's Digital Humans in the 'Covert Protocol' game demo

We spoke to Digital Humans built with NVIDIA ACE technology at Computex, and it was an impressive glimpse at the future of Generative AI in games.

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Game tech demos are usually created to showcase new rendering techniques, advanced animation, or stuff like real-time ray tracing. Even though NVIDIA and Inworld AI's Covert Protocol tech demo features an impressive-looking and lavish hotel lobby with detailed environments, ray tracing, and highly detailed character models, the visual fidelity is simply here to showcase a groundbreaking new bit of tech - digital humans that you can interact with.

We spoke to NVIDIA's Digital Humans in the 'Covert Protocol' game demo 5

NVIDIA first showcased Covert Protocol at GTX a few months ago. At Computex 2024 in Taipei, the company presented the same tech demo with AI digital humans powered by NVIDIA Avatar Cloud Engine (ACE) technologies running locally on a high-end GeForce RTX 4090 powered rig.

At the show, I had the chance to go hands-on with NVIDIA's impressive RTX AI technologies, and when it came to Covert Protocol, I was quietly blown away by the depth and breadth of its digital humans.

We spoke to NVIDIA's Digital Humans in the 'Covert Protocol' game demo 2

First, though, here is a brief primer on the AI tech on display with NVIDIA and Inworld AI's Covert Protocol demo. First, there's NVIDIA ACE, a collection of AI technologies that "bring digital humans to life" with a mix of automated facial animation, speech recognition, and text-to-speech tools. From the faces to the voices to the animation, it's powered by generative AI.

Behind the scenes are NVIDIA NeMo generative AI models for digital humans that are individually customized for personality, emotion, knowledge, and more. Like a stat sheet in an RPG, developers can fine-tune AI personalities. Finally, NVIDIA RTX uses DLSS 3.5 and ray tracing to create stunning environments.

All you need to know is that a ton of AI processing is happening, and it requires a GeForce RTX GPU with powerful Tensor Cores to run.

We spoke to NVIDIA's Digital Humans in the 'Covert Protocol' game demo 1

Covert Protocol takes place in a luxury hotel during a tech conference, and the goal is to find and locate the room of one of the hotel's guests, Martin Lane, who happens to be one of the keynote speakers. As a tech demo, the best way to describe Covert Protocol is that it's like one of the earliest forms of PC gaming - the text-based and point-and-click adventure genre popularized by Sierra with King's Quest and LucasArts with The Secret Monkey Island.

A narrative exercise where you use natural language to communicate with AI NPCs to solve a puzzle or objective. There's an element of role-play where you'll get as much out of the experience as you put in and immerse yourself in the world. What's immediately impressive is that even though story beats, character traits, and overall responses are mapped out, the digital humans react to your demeanor and approach in a way that scripted responses and dialogue trees cannot.

For example, in trying to get information from one of the hotel's distinguished but abrasive guests, Diego, I pretended to know him, called him buddy, and remarked about our time at school (all lies). Diego, the digital human, immediately responded with, "First of all, I'm not your buddy." And then poked more holes in my remarks. It was impressive, to say the least, with the only criticism being that the voice acting, the AI generated voices specifically, were noticeably robotic even though the performances were nuanced and carried emotion and tone.

We spoke to NVIDIA's Digital Humans in the 'Covert Protocol' game demo 3

I could look past this because it was a game demo and a very cool one at that. Eventually, after apologizing, I managed to convince Diego that there was an emergency and that there could be a potential outbreak, which was why I needed to get in touch with our mysterious keynote speaker, Martin Lane.

Guillermo Siman, Senior Product Manager at NVIDIA, who was presenting the demo, was expecting me to fail - again. However, when my lies eventually wore Diego down, he remarked that he hadn't seen him get convinced like that before and that I ended up skipping several vital steps to complete the objective. All I needed to do from here was follow Diego discretely and eavesdrop to complete the demo.

We spoke to NVIDIA's Digital Humans in the 'Covert Protocol' game demo 4

For the modern Telltale-style adventure game or RPG where dialogue choices and NPC interaction are key, NVIDIA ACE technologies, as seen in Covert Protocol, are a glimpse into the future. I could see the tech sitting alongside written dialogue with actors as a complimentary way to flesh out a digital world. Either way, I can't wait to see this tech playable in a complete game.

Thank you to our Computex Taipei 2024 sponsors!
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Kosta is a veteran gaming journalist that cut his teeth on well-respected Aussie publications like PC PowerPlay and HYPER back when articles were printed on paper. A lifelong gamer since the 8-bit Nintendo era, it was the CD-ROM-powered 90s that cemented his love for all things games and technology. From point-and-click adventure games to RTS games with full-motion video cut-scenes and FPS titles referred to as Doom clones. Genres he still loves to this day. Kosta is also a musician, releasing dreamy electronic jams under the name Kbit.

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