Autodesk acquires assets from GRIP Entertainment

Autodesk has acquired certain technology-related assets and hired individuals associated with GRIP Entertainment, a privately-held artificial intelligence (AI) game middleware company, based in Montreal. This acquisition accelerates Autodesk’s strategy to offer a more complete, simplified solution for the creation of believable interactive characters. The technology and expertise acquired complement Autodesk’s existing Gameware offerings and will enable the company to offer a more comprehensive AI solution.

The transaction closed in November 2011. Terms of the transaction were not disclosed. GRIP develops two AI middleware products for video game development: GRIP Character Control System and GRIP Digital Extra System.

GRIP Character Control System is an implementation of behavior trees — a method to encode and visually represent behavioral logic for nonplayer characters (NPCs). The behavior trees are containers for the atomic behaviors an NPC is capable of exhibiting, as well as a control mechanism for selecting behaviors.

GRIP Digital Extra System is an AI software module for creating and managing large numbers of NPCs in a video game. It helps game designers to more rapidly create vibrant worlds and game effects that require tens to hundreds of extras.

The acquisition will help Autodesk accelerate reaching its goal of providing a more complete, simplified solution for the creation of believable interactive characters. One important component of this solution is AI; therefore, Autodesk seeks to address the three links in the AI chain: reasoning and decision making, perception and information gathering, and movement. To do so, it must provide high-level AI authoring tools, pathfinding and spatial reasoning capabilities, and an animation engine.

GRIP Entertainment technology addresses the first link in the AI chain by providing production-proven high-level AI authoring tools to help define and control NPC behavior. Using its implementation of behavior trees and its bank of atomic behaviors, programmers and designers can efficiently encode and visually represent behavioral logic for these secondary characters.

Behavior trees offer programmers, designers and even producers a mechanism to communicate design concepts and debate implementation options, resulting in less rework and iteration.  Moreover the design itself is mirrored in the actual code implementation, limiting the AI programmer’s need to interpret the design.

GRIP’s implementation of behavior trees also provide a more extensible framework by allowing individual behaviors to be added to the overall control structure in such a way so they are isolated from other portions of the tree. This enables behaviors to be analyzed and tweaked discretely.

In addition, Autodesk envisions that its comprehensive solution would include AI and animation consulting services. To this end, Autodesk will benefit from the GRIP team’s expertise in artificial intelligence, along with its experience in delivering and supporting middleware, as well as developing video games.





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