EA Forms New Team to Explore Future Tech, Including Virtual Humans for VR
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Today during its Investor Day briefing, EA announced that it had formed a new internal team dedicated to exploring the trends of tomorrow, including virtual humans for virtual reality, among other things. The team is called Frostbite Labs, and it has two offices, one in Stockholm and the other in Vancouver.
EA Studios boss Patrick Soderlund said there are around 30-40 people working at Frostbite Labs right now. The people working on the team are "highly specialized" and "highly talented," he explained. They are working on "longer-term" projects that could one day have a "profound" impact on EA and in the industry. These projects could be considered "out there" and not so easy to wrap your head around, he said.
One area that Frostbite Labs is looking at is creating "virtual humans" for virtual reality devices. Soderlund said that if virtual reality takes off the way in which some believe it will, it will be important that EA can create highly believable character models. "How you're seen as a virtual human in that world is something we need to solve for," he explained.
Frostbite Labs is also pushing ahead on efforts in the deep learning space. What this may mean for EA in the long run is that a future version of the Frostbite Engine could allow a developer to input something like a season or time of day, and then the engine would produce a basic concept of a map, without a conceptual designer. This would, in theory, give developers more time to think about and work on iterating on actual gameplay elements.
"Now, we will never get to the point where the level is just taken from there, put into a game, and shipped. That won't happen," he explained. "But, if we can get a base set of levels created that the artists and levels can then go in and alter, imagine just much time we've won and how much more time we can spend on iterating on the game instead of actually making the game. In a sense, it should drive economy of scale and should also drive a better product."
Speaking broadly about innovation at EA, Soderlund said, "Innovation is not something you have to ask permission to do. This is something that has to be in our DNA. It's something that should be ingrained in the culture of the company."
He also joked that EA does not have an "innovation squad" that runs around to the company's offices and injects new ideas. "This happens at a team level, it happens at a tech level, [and it] actually happens even at an executive level," he said about EA's attitude towards innovation.
"I am a big believer in the need to constantly push and constantly innovate and try to be better," Soderlund said. "We need to dare to look into the future and dare to go deep into the crazy corners of technology. It's our responsibility as a company, it's something I'm passionate about, and it's something I think we have the right people to do."