Sony is developing a next-generation PlayStation 5 console for release next year, and what we know so far mostly relates to the hardware—it will feature a Navi GPU, for example, with real-time ray tracing support, and a solid state drive for snappy load times. In addition, a recent patent application suggests Sony will also incorporate an AI-powered digital assistant called "PlayStation Assist."
This has the potential to be a game changing feature, if implemented and utilized properly. As outlined in the patent, PlayStation Assist would provide real-time help to players. This could run the gamut from asking for help in how to defeat a boss, to finding an in-game item. As it pertains to the latter, here are a couple of patent diagrams that outline how it would work...
In the screen above, we see the player ask the console, "Hey PlayStation, where do I get a steel sword?" This indicates a familiar wake phrase mechanical, as we have seen with other digital assistants, such as Alexa, Siri, and Cortana.
PlayStation Assist responds to the inquiry by detailing where and how exactly the player goes about obtaining the steel sword in Skyrim. In this scenario it is found at a fixed location, and specifically at Rebel's Cairn, where it is sticking out of a pile of rocks. PlayStation Assist also provides an alternative location, noting it requires stealing from an NPC.
Games industry analyst Daniel Ahmad discovered the patent application at the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) website. There is a lot of text to digest, but the gist of the concept is that a digital assistant could help mitigate situations where "the user increasingly becomes frustrated with a game due to its difficulty or inability to advance through the game and eventually ends up quitting the video game."
Of course, that is what the web is for—a quick Google search or perusal of YouTube accomplishes the same thing. The advantage of a digital assistant, however, is getting help immediately without manually looking something up.
On the technical side, there are some interesting parts to PlayStation Assist.
Here is how Sony explains the technology in the patent application...
"A method for providing gaming assistance, comprising: receiving over a network at a back-end server information related to a plurality of game plays of players for a gaming application; receiving a query from a first player playing the gaming application, the query related to a first game play of the first player; determining a current game context of the first game play; generating a response to query and the current game context based on the information related to the plurality of game plays; and sending the response to a device of the first player," Sony states.
There are multiple layers to this. A developer might provide Sony with instructions for completing various tasks, or the AI could kick in and help solve the problem via machine learning methods. This could also entail analyzing gameplay by other players.
Sony filed the patent back in March, and it just became public a few days ago. Given the timing of the patent, the PS5 is the most likely candidate for this kind of feature, rather than the PlayStation 4 Pro. That said, this could also work with a companion mobile device. A phone or tablet could provide real-time assistance to a player, and even do so through a "running conversation." The idea is to "provide psychological and informational support to the player."
This is neat stuff, for sure.