A.I. Storytelling in Virtual Worlds

CS 8803 SVW

Fall 2009

Tuesday, Thursday 4:30-6:00pm

Location: CCB 53







This course is an exploration of the confluence of several technological, psychological, and media influences. Advances in artificial intelligence, 3D graphics, and understanding of narrative phenomenon have made it possible to begin thinking about and designing computational systems that reason about and manipulate stories. Why is this important? Narrative is a fundamental mode of cognition used by humans for communication, sense-making, entertainment, education, and training. Storytelling has recently gained popularity as a tool for motivating and engaging users in a variety of application domains. The canonical example is computer games, which use story plot lines to guide a user through a dramatic sequence of encounters with puzzles and opponents. However, there is evidence that stories can be used to engage learners and illustrate principles in educational domains, and to structure tasks in training applications. In this course we will ask, and attempt to answer, the following question: How can artificial intelligence enable us to do new things with stories in virtual worlds for the purpose of entertaining, educating, and training human users? The course requires a moderate background in artificial intelligence and an interest in psychology and media. At the end of the course, students will be able to perform original research in the area of AI storytelling.

Course Topics

The purpose of the course is to provide students with an in-depth understanding of the issues and principles underlying AI for storytelling in virtual worlds. The first half of the course will focus on foundational principles and technologies:

  • Narrative theory
  • Cognitive psychology
  • A.I. in virtual worlds
  • Synthetic characters
  • Story generation

The second half of the course will focus on applications of AI storytelling in virtual worlds and conceptual extensions:

  • Virtual cinematography
  • Interactive storytelling
  • Storytelling in learning and education
  • Computational creativity


Mark Riedl

Email: riedl@cc.gatech.edu

Phone: 404-385-2860

Fax: 404-894-0673

Office: TSRB 228

Office hours: Tuesday, Thursday 3:30-4:30pm.

Course Structure

The course will be conducted in seminar format. Discussions will center on key AI and storytelling systems and research publications. Students will lead discussions on a rotating basis. Periodically, the instructor will lead in-class activities related to course material.

The course will build towards a semester-long group project to build a functioning story generation and cinema visualization system. The project is inspired by the movie Slumdog Millionaire. Given an arbitrary multiple-choice question, tell the story about how a fictional character comes to know the answer. There are numerous open research questions that must be addressed; the project will require deep understanding of how artificial intelligence, psychology, and narrative theory interact.


Graduate standing (or undergraduate standing with instructor permission) and coursework in artificial intelligence. Familiarity with graphics will be helpful, but not manditory.


Grades will be determined by (1) class participation, (2) quizzes, (3) a midterm essay, and (4) a semester group project with conference-submission quality paper. The project will be defined by the instructor but the students will have vast leeway in implementing the vision of the project.